Last time, I introduced a concept and framework for selecting and building businesses to support an Untemplater lifestyle. After some great questions in the comments, it was clear that we needed to dive deeper into each component. We’ll start with the planning and business selection topicsin this post.
From my experiences and research, these four concepts are critical to the planning of a successful business. Overlook them early, and you’ll likely face their challenges sooner or later.
This doesn’t mean that your business needs to be one-of-a-kind, with no competition because it’s so unusual. It means that your product or service should have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), some distinguishing characteristic that makes it different from and better than other similar products. I would not suggest proceeding past the planning stage without being able to communicate your USP simply and concisely. A great resource for this topic is Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson, particularly chapter six.
Unless you’ve just won the lottery or inherited a fortune (and probably even if you have), you’ll want to eat the elephant one bite at a time. That means starting with a small niche and expanding from there. In this age, there’s probably no such thing as a niche that is too narrow. Resist the temptation to be all things to all people, even if the opportunities look promising. In How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins shares the insightful wisdom of David Packard, cofounder of HP: a company is more likely to die of indigestion from too much opportunity than starvation from too little.
This lesson is often learned the hard way, and I can speak from experience. It is tempting to presume that our own desires and preferences extend to others, and that presumption probably leads to the majority of business failures. With an open mind, patience, and just a few dollars, you can boost your chances of success exponentially. As with the USP, I would not recommend moving past the planning stage without testing the commercial viability of your products or services. Chapter ten of The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss is hands-down the best resource for how to do this. It walks you through the process step-by-step and provides detailed information on the resources you’ll need.
Building a business can be extremely fun and rewarding, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. One of my business partners and I always remind each other that “every day is a Saturday, and no day is a Saturday.” On those days (or weeks, or months) that it feels like you’re walking in the mud, you better have some passion and enthusiasm to fall back on. To test this, I particularly like Gary Vaynerchuk’s suggestion in Crush It: make a list of 50 things. If your project involves writing, make a list of 50 sub-topics. If your project involves internet marketing, make a list of 50 things you can do to promote it. If your product requires direct sales, make a list of 50 people to contact. If you can’t count to 50, you may not be passionate enough.
What are your thoughts? Did I miss any other critical planning components?
i really like this post. you’ve hit the nail on the head with all the four concepts. I especially like the ‘unique’ concept because we came across this problem when we first began our business. We hand to sit down and think about ways to differentiate our selves from the competition.(it wasn’t easy).Research is very important as it helps you understand the needs of your possible target market. (which i guess is the same as your testing section)
Maren Kate says
Testing & Passion are like the two main things I look for when going into a venture – if I don’t test it at least a little I usually regret it majorly and if I don’t love the idea and can get behind what we are doing I usually fizzle out half way through 🙂
Kendra Kinnison says
Edward – You’re right on the HP quote. I recently read another book, Derailed, that chronicles much of their recent struggles. It is quite ironic.
On the testing, you should check out 4HWW. It outlines a method to gauge interest before the first item is produced. I’ve really found it very helpful on two new ventures.
Rich & Maren – I completely agree on the enthusiasm and passion. With enough of that, you can likely overcome many of the other obstacles.
It sounds like all of y’all (sorry for the Texas-speak) are on the right track. Keep moving forward.
Maren Kate says
I was born in Texas!! So say all the y’all’s you want 🙂 And you are right on the four hour workweek does out line a lot of great testing methods – some simple, some more in depth.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
The HP quote is rather ironic considering that many inside the company feel that it is trying to do too much and undervaluing it’s core business.
I’m struggling with the testing part for an idea I came up with that will take a long time and a lot of money to produce the first product. Everything other than skill is already in place and as Gary V points out (I just started reading Crush It! yesterday) that can be learned.
Maren Kate says
Crush it is amazing! And yes that is true – look into outsourcing if you at all can because often that helps when you are first testing a product/service/idea and need more minds/hands 🙂
Maren Kate says
Enthusiasm is my favorite too, it really is key in a start up or any business lest your reason for doing it seems to flounder and a business becomes a “job”.
Mike Key says
So true! And I think your enthusiasm has to be for more than just making money. I have seen a few people who thought an idea was just a great way to make money, and they completely failed, because they where so focused on making the money, rather than actually caring about what it was they where doing. You have to care about what you’re doing, in order to make that money.
Maren Kate says
I’ve done the same thing, not had the enthusiasm, then gone into something & it totally crashes – being optimistic & having passion for something goes a long way you are right!
Rich Riley says
I really like your third section, “Enthusiasm”. It seems that in order for anybody to be successfull at anything they have to have 2 things: passion and persistence. Without those two things, you’re just like the rest of the people who keep dreaming instead of doing. I really like the tips that Gary Vaynerchuk suggest doing in order to determine if you’re still motivated enough to succeed. I haven’t read the book yet, but I might have to check it out.