Sometimes we get so excited about our idea that we jump right in before thinking it all the way through. Too many of us start a business or project or even a career before we know if that initial decision supports where we want to end up in 3, 5 or 10 years plus.
I think following these initial five steps before you do anything (and I mean anything) is quite helpful as it puts you in a solid frame of mind before you take the market or your life by storm.
N.B. This post is derived from a previous post
Here we go!
Step 1 – Project 5 years into the future to create the ideal scenario for yourself
- Please take a piece of paper, fold it into 4 symmetrical boxes and write down the four most important areas of your life at the top of each square
- Then, write down how each of these categories would ideally manifest themselves were you to look back in five years.
For instance, let’s say Health was a category. You could say that (in five years’ time) you would be as healthy then as you were in your 30s, that you would run 3-5 miles every other day and swim 3 miles every week, your cholesterol would be within acceptable limits and so on. Take a week (or less) to complete. I recommend that you do this in pen (or pencil) as the act of writing it down is a different and a more useful/visceral process than typing it out. Also, please keep it in your desk or other accessible place so you can revisit it from time to time.
Here is an example of one that is already completed (this is NOT mine)
Once this is done, please think back into your work/job history and do the following:
Step 2 – Review at least three past jobs from the following perspectives:
- WHAT: Name the job and the company
- WHEN: When and how long did you work there?
- WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT IT?
- WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY?
- WHAT DID YOU NOT ENJOY ABOUT IT?
- GIVE IT A GRADE – A B C D or F
Write these all down and be completely honest with yourself. This should inform your future by examining what worked in the past and what did not. This perspective may help you shape your future self in your next role/career.
Step 3 – Review Strengths and Weaknesses
- Think about your strengths (about 3-5) – VERY IMPORTANT – This one is a bit different from what we usually think about strengths. These are not necessarily only what you are skilled at but what gives you energy during and after doing it. You might not even be very good at it just yet but you love doing it. Write all those things down.
- Think about your weaknesses (about 3-5) – that is, things that give you less energy or you get bored doing and avoid or put off. Ironically, you may be good at some of these things.
For instance, I am pretty good at networking but it is not something I enjoy. I skew towards introvert so it is work for me to go to networking events and/or ask people to introduce me to others. I am usually tired afterward and rarely look forward to them but know they are important to do. However, when I do talk with new folks, I really enjoy learning about them and what they do. If I find I can help them in some way, I am eager to do that as well. Even better if I can get a lead, contact or idea from the interaction.
Step 4 – Create a Mind Map
This one can be fun as it is all about you and there are no wrong answers. Here is what you can do:
- For 10 mins, write down on Post-it Notes everything and anything (do not discriminate – just let the thoughts flow) that comes to mind related to your business or other idea. – use a timer. It is important to write down each idea on a separate Post-it note. You will find out shortly why that is. Go the full 10 minutes and know that you may have moments where you can think of nothing. Stick with it as you will also have moments where you cannot write things down fast enough. Invest the 10 minutes. It should prove worth it.
- Now you can organize the Post-its into groups where the individual items are connected around a similar theme – It is okay to add other ideas later as they come to you. It is also okay to have huge gaps as you will fill those in later as you notice them. Do this on a large wall or some space where you can see all of the Post-it Notes in one area.
- Once you feel like you have sorted them into groups you can work with, determine first 2-3 groups you will work on but do not start them until you complete all 5 steps. You may have many groups and some orphans. Do not worry about and definitely keep the orphans. They may have value later.
Now that this is done, put these items aside. We will come back to these in a bit.
Step 5(a) – Create One Sentence that describes your business idea that meets the 3Cs – crisp, clear and compelling.
We are not going to start off with one sentence as that can be daunting so we will start on a slightly larger scale. There will be three steps with the final one being the one sentence.
- Start with one page – 400-500 words that describe the idea. Write down everything that comes into your head and try to keep it to one page and no more than 20 minutes to start. Let that sit for a few hours or a few days if you would like.
- Now that it has marinated a bit, turn that into one paragraph. Let that sit for a few hours or a few days if you would like.
- Now let’s turn that into one sentence. Make sure it is crisp, clear and compelling. Once you have it in a place that you think it is ready to go, run it by one or two people that are not familiar with what you are doing to make sure they understand it. You may want to have it follow the classical guidelines of What (it is), Who (it is for) and What (problem(s)) it solves.
For instance, here is my one sentence: Catalyst Growth Advisors teaches mid-market CEOs and leadership teams the proven principles to build and maintain a scaling and thriving business and culture.
Now here comes the fun part. Remember that your idea is just that – an idea. Do not get too emotionally connected to it at this point as it may not survive these conversations. Remember that your goal is to build a business that matters to you AND your customers – not one or the other but both!
Step 5 (b) – Share your one sentence business idea with at least 10 people to get their immediate feedback.
- Read the sentence word for word. Do not elaborate unless they ask. Get their initial reaction to your business idea – whatever it is. DO NOT ASK THEM IF THEY THINK IT IS A GOOD IDEA!! Just say that you are thinking of starting a business and you want to read this one sentence that describes the idea then shut up! :~) (N.B. 2-3 people MUST be strangers)
- Listen, dig deeper, pay attention to more than words. Once you get an initial reaction, ask questions to get as deep an understanding as possible. Write down everything you hear as you never know what may be useful later when you review your notes.
Take what you learn and update your Mind Map and One Sentence if necessary. Based upon the feedback, if your One Sentence has changed in a meaningful way, repeat Step 5(a + b).
If your One Sentence stays intact then revisit the groups you prioritized in Step 4 and keep them near but do not start doing anything yet as we have to now test your idea with your intended target which is the topic of the next few posts.
I know you are eager to DO something but remember things may have changed with this feedback. By the way, you are DOING something. You have done and are doing what most entrepreneurs never do and most of them fail. Different sounds like a better approach to me based upon history.
N.B. Many entrepreneurs want to keep their idea a secret. Unless you have come up with something where secrecy is warranted your risk is minimal. Most you tell are focused on themselves and will not execute this idea as well as you since this is your passion, not theirs.
Pat Flynn gives a better explanation in his book if you want to look into this further.
Next week: How to identify and nail the pain you are addressing