I’m guilty of daydreaming. Luckily for me, I have incredible mentors who help me get real before I spend too much time in the clouds. People who ground me, while not shattering my big vision.
By Bricks-Mayers standards, I’m a typical campaigner (ENFT-A). I challenge status quo, I’m a self-starter and I think outside the box. I focus on possibilities, and have an innate enthusiasm for new ideas, experiences and people. But in order for any of my plans to materialise and have ‘legs’, I need people who keep me accountable and help me lay out actionable plan and execute it one step at the time, patiently. I get easily bored and I sometimes struggle with details. So I feel incredibly lucky to have a co-founder who possesses those traits and balances everything. I think that’s what gives us a shoot at becoming successful on a wider scale.
Vision is important, but hands-on on small, often mundane steps, is more so. Small wins fuel success.
1. Don’t focus on details (at least not in the beginning).
At the start, you need to be pragmatic, not visionary. You don’t have resources to fulfil your vision. First make money, then polish what you have. When you just start, forget about spending time on designing a perfect logo, website or a deck. Sure, you can scribble down a 5 year business plan, but your final product will look completely different than you imagine it to be at the beginning. Startups pivot. It’s very very rare to get product market fit on the first instance. You’ll be better investing time in getting feedback, marketing and selling your idea.
Yes, you should have a rough idea where you’d like to arrive, but you won’t know the path that will get you there, until you start acting and talking to people to understand what they need. Ideas is cheap. Persistent execution and incremental progress in building a product or service that people want, are key to any success.
2. Nail sales.
Sales is what makes or breaks any company or a commercial project. Start with something that you’re almost embarrassed to show to the world. Sell it. This also applies to any non commercial project that you’re trying to pull off. We all sell in one way or another. Whether you’re trying to ‘sell’ yourself as an employee on an interview, vow your romantic partner to tie bonds with you forever, your kid to do their homework delaying instant gratification in hope for their better future… we all sell.
When someone is ready to pay for what you offer, it means he/she sees value in what you’re offering. Until then, all you have is an idea.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Almost nobody got super famous or rich from the very beginning. If you don’t believe me, go to your favourite podcasters/influencers/artists/field experts who publish their work and scroll back to the very first pieces they published. Looks amateur? Most likely. But they kept going and gathering feedback to iterate on their ideas, until they nailed what works. Remember that mistakes and failures are part of the journey. See them as opportunities for growth and learning and be proud of your progress.
4. Clarify your value proposition.
If someone can’t visit your website and figure out what you do, who it’s for, and what they should do next… all within 5 seconds or less… you have a problem. Building a Storybrand and Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller is to the rescue.
And when you’re creating a retail brand, you need to create community. Don’t try to be Apple or Patagonia at the start. Yes, their loyal customers buy into the company vision, but there is much more than this. Those companies successfully build a value proposition and differentiated themselves from the competition. So Apple can afford placing billboards just with one photo and caption “Shot with iPhone” on it, because everybody knows what they represent. You’re not Apple. So clarify what your customer gets and spread your message across.
5. Learn to walk before you can run.
Many people have a tendency to overcomplicating things and launching too complex products / too many products, before they nail their core one.
I also made this mistake at my other company Oishya, when I tried to launch new products (clothing line Oishya) before nailing down our core kitchenware product – Japanese kitchen knives for home cooking women. It caused more confusion within our target group and conversion rates dropped even more. Keep it simple. Focus on getting the basics right early on can set the stage for more visionary pursuits in the future.
6. Optimise your time.
What gets scheduled, gets done. One of the first things I do myself and encourage others to do is create an “ideal week”. Anything that’s important should be scheduled as an appointment with yourself. Meeting prep? Schedule it. Reading time? Schedule it. Thinking time? Schedule it. It’s very helpful with those ephemeral strategic tasks, that need to be done but somehow we always postpone.
7. You need consistency.
Extension to the point above. You need consistency to see results. My calendar is filled with weekly or daily to-do things, those from learning a language, playing a guitar, writing a post on my Linkedin to build brand awareness or financial reviews of our company. With consistency, you’ll will form a habit. Those keystone habits are effective because they lead to other small changes that lead to many small wins. Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favours another small win. Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.