From starting my first business to advising startups, this is what I’ve learned about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business.
Since the launch of my first business where I turned $200 into $202,000 of annual revenue in 14 days, I’ve been called several things; growth hacker, entrepreneur, marketing adviser and branding guru. These are essentially the same role and each of these titles have a common formula for success.
I have consulted for a number of startups, individual brands, and existing businesses and these three lessons and principles have been applicable for success every time.
Here are my 3 principles that any first time entrepreneur or developing founder should follow.
“A man who is not held accountable to anyone else is a danger to himself.” – Iyanla Vanzant
Creating accountability for yourself and amongst your peers is always the first step in taking action and achieving success in entrepreneurship. This is a lesson that all of us need to learn and fast… accountability equals action.
When starting my own businesses, I learned that if I didn’t hold myself accountable for my actions or goals and I didn’t complete them, then no one cared because they didn’t know they existed. I have also learned that if I told people about my goals, then I almost always completed them because someone else was holding me accountable for the work I said I would produce.
Most startups fail not due to their skillset or ambition but because they lack accountable action. My first question to all startups is:
“When do you want to achieve your goals by?”
The second is:
“Who is going to do this? How are you going to do this?”
I follow this with creating a timeline for their goals and then moderate their goals to make them achievable. This creates momentum, motivation and success on a scaled timeline. The reason people always hit these milestones is because they’re finally accountable to someone else.
If you’re not taking responsibility for your goals, it is time to do so. Here is the tool I use as a solopreneur to make myself accountable for the work I want to achieve on a daily basis: find someone you’re close with… a relative, your partner, a close friend, etc. Send them an email with two imperative goals for the day. Then ask them to email you at 6 PM:
Did you achieve the two goals you set out to achieve today? If you haven’t why not?
I find this email terrible to answer if I haven’t achieved the goals I set out to do. 99% of the time, if I haven’t hit those milestones, there is some poor excuse I have to write down that looks pathetic on paper. I’m not only letting myself down but also to the other people who are holding me accountable and who took the time to email me at the end of their day and I haven’t held up my side of the bargain. Nothing makes you work harder than letting your friend, family member or business partner down with a lousy excuse.
This process has helped many of my clients see success when they’ve stalled or plateaued in growth. Make yourself accountable for your actions and you’ll be amazed at how much more you will achieve.
“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn.
When networking, I always look for ways to surround myself with the most successful and ambitious people in the entrepreneurial world.
I am constantly surrounded by successful people who I like to model some part of my life on. I speak with people like Brian D. Evans, John Lee Dumas and Matt Kohn from Different Hunger on a regular basis. These people are doing things that I want to do in the future and share many of the same ideals I do. Modeling my work days on what they’ve already achieved and getting their advice along the way has helped me immensely.
I consistently ask the startups I am working with:
“Who are the five closest people surrounding your business idea or personal brand and what are they doing right now to help you?”
If the answer is vague and unspecified, it is time to upgrade your circle. You’re now probably asking yourself the question – where do I find these type of people? Facebook.
Throw the desired terms into Google i.e., “Facebook Entrepreneur Groups” and you will find communities of ambitious people everywhere. Once you’ve joined these groups, tell the community about your goals and ask to connect with people who are doing something similar to you. Set up a post that is telling people about what you’re doing and say you’re looking for some help or role models. People love helping each other in these communities so make sure you can return the favor when you’re able to. If you’re wanting someone to buddy up with to keep you accountable I have created an online community here.
Once you’ve established a great network, make sure you really connect with each one of those people as they’re the ones who are going to be able to share their wisdom with you.
Finding your product market fit
“You know what the single worst marketing decision you can make is? Starting with a product nobody wants or nobody needs.” – Ryan Holiday
This is generally the technical part of my job when consulting. Too many businesses or brands start with a great idea but can’t make it consumable for the client.
I have a tendency to ask many of the startups I am working with this question:
“If your business was to start selling your product today – why would people buy it and how would they use it?”
Surprisingly, almost 50% of people can’t answer this question, which begs the question: how will you bring a product to market when you don’t know how people will use it? This is the step in which you will need to refine your ideas through the network you collected earlier.
Present your product to as many people as possible in your target market and ask them if they would purchase your product and why they would purchase it. You need to ask for reasons as to why they would not purchase it as well. If you find a consistent pattern in the strengths of your product, you’re onto a winner. If you’re finding a lot of inconsistencies and people are saying that they probably wouldn’t buy it, it is time to refine your idea.
Most great ideas need refining, YouTube started as the video version of an online dating site. Remember, if you can’t answer the above question accurately, you probably need more feedback or improvement. Use your network to help flesh out your content or ideas before investing a huge amount of money.
By following this process, I was able to launch my own business for a measly $200 and in 14 days we generated $202,000. During that time, we followed all of the principles outlined above and found huge success. Whether you’re an existing business or a just starting out, your product can always be refined in this way.
I’m sure if you adopt even one of these principles you will see your own productivity and business grow rapidly. Ask these questions of yourself and your business to keep on track as I do each day.
If you want to find the checklist I use when working with new clients you can find it here to guide you in your own entrepreneurial journey.