Kick-off to start from today, and be ready to fail, iterate, and repeat.
I remember our first mentee call with Joe. He was enthusiastic; he had been dreaming about starting his own business for years. He had a lot of ideas to tell and was quite proud of his creativity flow. Belonging to an engineering background, he described solutions using blockchain, augmented reality, and Artificial Intelligence.
I appreciated him for his imagination and enthusiasm. It was a good sign. I then asked him to tell me the problems that he was solving with all these solutions. He was stopped short at that. Silence followed.
There is an important point to be noted here. Joe has had great ideas and expertise to define different technology enablers. He had the passion that was needed. However, he lacked the pivotal element, the user problem. Despite the great ideas, he had failed to focus first on identifying the root of the problem that he would solve. He didn’t have a model to work on; he was aiming for empty air.
As Nir Eyal, a famed author puts it wisely;
“Good ideas are cheap. Success comes from hard work, not a stroke of genius.”
Kickstarting your entrepreneurial journey requires you to follow the advice of those who are up the ladder. Below I have compiled three top pieces of advice that I think are mandatory for everyone with entrepreneurial dreams. Like everyone else, I have also learned these from the best, who successfully transformed their ideas into business realities.
Three top pieces of advice that will kickstart your journey
1. First, identify a problem and then come up with ideas
Business ideas are worth very little in reality. You may have many amazing ideas, but you won’t be successful unless you solve meaningful problems with them. Therefore, execution is everything in business.
We often think that “innovation” is related to ideas. In essence, however, innovation starts with a problem or an opportunity. Fortunately, there are many problems to solve today. If you’re wondering how can you identify these problems, begin by asking yourself the question: when was the last time I changed my behavior?
That’s right. We are stuck in our habits, following a fixed, repetitive pattern. Some great examples of how entrepreneurs solved problems are:
- In earlier times, when business persons wanted to expand their network, they would travel once or several times in a year to attend events. Today, we have the mega-outreaching platform, LinkedIn, to connect to anyone anywhere in the world in a matter of one click.
- Similarly, in previous years, customers would be charged expensively for renting a hotel room in central Manhattan — the metropolis. In addition, travelers would find it close to impossible to pre-book rooms in remote places for overnight stays. Today, thanks to Airbnb, we have a budget-friendly solution to help you find a room even if it’s an unknown, remote village with limited accommodation.
You see, problems have been everywhere and still do exist. Just take a look at the 17 sustainable goals to get some inspiration. Even if you are not tackling a brand-new problem, you can always find an existing one and speak with a customer about their current experience with the solution. It can be anything; plastic packaging, food delivery, toy shopping, etc. Listen to their challenges, their feelings about it, whether they have any frustrations or complaints, and find opportunities to help them.
The key here is to listen. You must not sell in the first go. Always validate your hypotheses by asking users what they would want to change. Look into different stakeholders, what they are doing, take their advice, and see how they solve the problem. When done, let your creative juices flow with their force and focus on your targeted challenge.
2. Start from today, not tomorrow
You cannot sit around waiting for all the stars to align. You have to take the lead at some point. Founder of What Works, Tara Gentile, aptly reflects this in her words,
“They wait to get started. They wait until they have more information, more experience, more, more money, and a more perfect version of whatever they have created.”
Making excuses don’t help you start a business; I can vouch for that as I wasted some precious years in thinking, ‘I don’t have time.’
To learn, you have to begin somewhere. You may fail, make mistakes, but you will ultimately be successful. So start working on your idea besides your 9–5 job — don’t quit in a blink. I dreamed for 15 years and kept a journal to track my evolution. The real execution, however, started two years before I quit my job.
Here is how:
- You must commit a fixed time to your project. It can be hours, half a day of evening or weekend — anything. Allocate real-time to your routine to kickstart your journey to your destination.
- Validate your ideas by speaking with potential users to frame your project.
- Ask for objective feedback from people that give unbiased opinions about what is awesome and what is not.
3. Launch before you feel ready
In entrepreneurship, your lifelong enemy is the hunt for perfection. One thing that always haunted me was to find how to measure “good enough.” However, ultimately it is about our feelings. If you are afraid of the feedback or the rejection and are stalling time to “make” your project perfect, you are wasting your time.
The advice is to start quickly with a prototype and validate your ideas. Don’t invest all your savings in producing the best-lasting product without any customer feedback. Instead, validate your venture by starting quickly, launching fast, and building a small user base that can help you test, learn, and iterate.
Some great examples of extraordinary disruptions to make you feel motivated for the day are the Netflix prototype, and Airbnb MVP (Minimum Viable Product). In the beginning, all of these began with a low-cost, trashy prototype with a cripple product.
Lewis Howes of the School of Greatness, the New York’s best-selling author, advises aspiring entrepreneurs,
“Perfectionism cripples many entrepreneurs. They won’t launch their site or put their product up for sale until they think it’s perfect, which is a big waste of time. It’s never going to be perfect.”
Hard to digest, but that’s how it is. You have to go through multiple iterations and failures before you see the silver lining.
So, what are you waiting for?
Entrepreneurship is a journey, the kick-off to start from today, and be ready to fail, iterate, and repeat. Of course, there are numerous risks, challenges, and the blow of failures. However, in the end, it equips you with priceless wisdom that will make you dish out advice like I am doing today.
Are you ready to begin?