How To Start: From idea to execution
The biggest question I get from aspiring entrepreneurs or people that just want more out of life is “how do I get started?” I hear all of the ideas, the people that say “I had the idea to start Uber way before they did,” or “If I only had ____ , I could do that too.” The truth of the matter is that ideas are meaningless without execution. Ideas are great and it takes a certain amount of creativity to be successful in any new business endeavor, but at some point you have to start acting on these ideas if they are ever going to come to fruition. Before we dive into how to take your idea from idea to real business, you have to be prepared for a few things:
- Your first business will likely fail- Don’t take this as a negative, instead look at it as an opportunity. If you have never played baseball before, you likely are not stepping into a major league batters box and hitting a 98 mph fastball. You first have to learn the right mechanics, then learn to hit off the tee, make adjustments, practice, practice, practice, and then eventually have success, maybe. The same is true in business. You have to learn to hit off the tee before you can hit a major league fastball. My first business was a dropshipping watch store. At the time, I thought it was the greatest business ever. I thought the website was great, I thought I knew how to market it and was sure that this was my big break into online marketing. That business went out of business relatively quickly, but what I learned from it led to the next idea, and the next idea after that. You have to be prepared to learn and make mistakes if you want to build something great.
- Have patience- We are all so impatient. We want everything to come to us right away. It’s the reason the lottery exists and why I always lose $40 at the 50/50 raffles! The opportunity to make it big overnight is the American dream. However, there really is no such thing as an overnight success. Even the yodeling kid, Mason Ramsey, spent years singing to empty stores in Walmart before he was discovered. The term overnight success only applies to your knowledge of that person. 99% of the time, that overnight success spent years plugging away at their craft before they were discovered. To use the Uber example, Uber spent years developing their tech, then spent nearly 2 years just in the San Francisco market before expanding. If you want to build something successful, it’s important to understand that it will take years of hard work.
- Be prepared for naysayers- If you are starting something new, you have to understand that most people are not like you. Most people are comfortable with their 9-5 and enjoy their comfortable lifestyle. Change is scary to most and when you tell people about your idea, you must be willing accept that most will doubt and question you. These people are usually the ones closest to you, your friends, family and those who claim to care about you the most. This isn’t their fault, they are just wired to think differently than you are and don’t understand the reason you are starting this new venture. Entrepreneurship is lonely and you have to start developing tough skin and put your blinders on. First people ask why you are doing it, then they will ask you how you did it.
Now that we have covered a few initial mindset preparations, let’s talk about HOW to start:
- Start with your ideas- If you are a creative or entrepreneur starting a new business, you likely have ideas often. You probably have a notebook, whiteboard or a mental list of your million dollar ideas. Start by writing them all down. Taking into consideration that it will take years for this venture to be a major success, you have to ask yourself “what can I stick with for over a year without making money?” This is really important, because you probably won’t make money at first.
- Pick your passion- For that reason, you have to pick something you are passionate about. Something you would do every day just for fun. Seem outlandish? Consider the fact that a father and son simply cut things open on YouTube and have converted a fun hobby into hundreds of thousands in ad revenue. The internet is huge and if you find what you enjoy, you will eventually find a market for it. If your thing is Pogs and you really love Pogs but you’re thinking, that can’t be a business. What if you spent the next year making videos and reviewing the most unique Pogs in the world, and one day a popular YouTuber like Tanner Fox decides he loves Pogs too and it becomes the next biggest thing. Now, you have already created a huge brand and when people begin searching for Pogs, you are already there as the industry expert. Don’t think that’s possible? Just go ask the kids that found fidget spinners first. The point is, you have to really love your craft and if you stick with it, you will either find your community, or that community may eventually come to you!
- Make yourself accountable- One step to walk a thousand miles. Take the first step to putting your idea into action. Self awareness is key here because you have to know what will help you commit. For me, it’s verbalizing it to others or making a monetary investment. I know that if I tell others I’m going to do something, I automatically become more accountable. If you purchase that new domain name, invest in a training course or buy your first products to sell, you are committing by putting your own skin in the game. Decide for yourself what will keep you accountable to your idea and do it.
- Execution, Execution, Execution- No more talking about what you are going to do or what you are doing. Everyone loves the feeling of being motivated. It inspires us, it gives us hope for a better tomorrow, but that’s the part you have been doing forever. It’s time to execute and that’s not as fun as being motivated. It’s not fun waking up at 6 am on a Monday to put 2 hours of work into your business before heading to your 9-5 job. You will have to do this at first because it’s completely irresponsible to suggest you should quit your day job to pursue this dream. You will have to execute in the hours outside of your normal work hours and expect to get very few pats on the back, or “ata boys” from those around you. This is why it’s so important to find what you love, because it’s going to be very hard, it’s going to take long hours and you may not see the rewards for quite some time.
- Trade your time for exposure- It cannot be stressed enough, that if you are just getting started, you have to be willing to showcase your skills for free. We are conditioned to think that all of our work should be financially compensated and that’s just not the case. Let’s say your business is video production. You love producing videos but don’t know where to start. What’s more beneficial? Attempting to charge a small business owner $500 to film a company video? Or reaching out to every YouTube star like Casey Neistat and asking if you can edit a video for them for FREE? The short term thinker might say the $500, but what if the YouTuber shares your video to their thousands of followers? Now, you are showcasing your skills and building up your resume at the same time. Now, you can take that video to the next proposal and charge $3000 because you have proven what you can do. Think long term and quit overvaluing your time. You are just starting out and even though you may have an ego, you have to understand that nobody else cares about your ego. Do great work for free, and people will start asking how they can pay you.
- Brand yourself as an expert- Even if you know you are the expert in your industry, nobody else does. You have to start putting out content, engaging communities and branding yourself as THE go to source in your field. Let’s say you are a nurse practitioner aspiring to open your own cosmetic location because you love botox and helping others feel like their best self. That’s a great and noble cause, but nobody knows who you are. Start a YouTube channel, blog or podcast where you discuss the best practices of botox, what to do, what not to do, different skin types, what causes wrinkles, de-bunk myths, etc. Go on Twitter and search the term “botox” and you will find someone named Kathy saying “I really want to try botox but I don’t know anything about it.” This isn’t the opportunity to say “Hey Kathy, come to me,” instead, ask Kathy what questions or concerns she has about the process and natively engage, not to sell, but to be helpful. Answer her questions and potentially send her to your blog “7 things to know for the new botox user.” Kathy may not become a customer now, but maybe she will in a month, and either way you are building yourself as the expert in your field. One by one, day by day you will continue to build your brand until people start viewing you as the expert in your field.
Don’t let the fancy photos and Instagram posts about automating your life fool you, entrepreneurship is not easy. There’s a reason that most people choose to work a steady job and have evening freedoms and weekends off. However, if you have reached the point where you are tired of talking about what you’re “going to do” and want to actually start that dream business, this is a great place to start. Find something that you love and just start by putting one foot in front of the other. Once you start doing, you will learn what works and what doesn’t while learning your craft. Even if that first business isn’t successful, it will prepare you for the next thing and the thing after that. If you can keep the mentality to keep moving forward, it’s amazing how eventually you will get “lucky” and stumble into something you are truly passionate about. Just make the decision to start because ideas are nothing without execution.