Have you ever seen those “top books to read for cs” lists? It’s frustrating to see 50+ books that you have to finish reading before moving on with your startup. They make you feel like, if you don’t read them a disaster will happen.
Although that is somewhat true. I have good news for you. You don’t have to read them all! I’m going to give you 7 of the most powerful tips needed for a great start. But, am I giving you everything you have to know? Of course NOT, and that’s where the bad news comes in…
You will have to read them eventually, but just to buy you some time I’ve summarized the important starting points from all the books I’ve read, so you can get a well-informed head start. I’m doing this so you can start now and stop with the “I have to learn” excuses. Sound good? Then, get a pen and paper because you’re going to be starting sooner than you think.
Here are the seven bulletproof business fundamentals needed for success:
1. It’s all a test
You won’t get everything right the first time. Many entrepreneurs think they’ve failed whenever their product doesn’t work out. It feels terrible… I know. You work for months on a product and then no one buys it. In fact, that’s why they tell you to launch as soon as you can.
So, you can get feedback and update your product fast. Listen to feedback carefully, modify the product and then launch again. Keep repeating this process until you get better and better. You’ll never stop enhancing it since nothing will ever be perfect. Remember that a startup is an experiment lab and there’s always something to improve.
You just have to improve one thing at a time. Oh yeah, one more thing… Don’t just accept feedback. Rather you should demand it and reward for it!
2. Give them the fish
Customers don’t want to learn how it’s done. Let me give you an example, imagine you enter a barbershop and the barber gives you scissors and teaches you how to cut your own hair. I’m guessing, you wouldn’t be happy at all. All you wanted was to get a quick haircut and then get out of there. Right? You don’t want to learn how to cut hair. You want your haircut. That’s why you should never teach your customers how to fish. Instead, sell the fish to them!
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs
3. Target, Lock and engage
Be specific. Don’t try to do everything and don’t try to target everyone. If you think your product is too general then make it specific. I don’t care if you’re selling pizza or an online course.
Here’s an example, Would you rather be a bodybuilder’s pizza restaurant or just the next boring pizza restaurant? Obviously the first one because it stands out and it’s specific. Bodybuilders who love pizza will rush right through your doors because you told them that this place is for them, you focused on them and you welcomed them. Unlike the general pizza place that makes them feel like the next customer. When you specifically create something for someone they will feel special.
That’s not all. Have you ever considered how much it would cost to promote your products to everyone? Hint: A LOT! Selling to everyone isn’t logical either. I mean, you wouldn’t try to sell a car to a 10 year old or candy to a 70 year old, would you? Ok, you get the point.
4. Playing the monopoly game
If you really want to make it big in the business, you need to have an advantage. Not just a tiny advantage, but, a great one. You need to stand out and be different. Remember that bodybuilder’s pizza place I told you about? That stands out to bodybuilders like no other pizza place ever will.
Contrary to what you learnt at school, competition is actually a bad thing and you need to try your best to avoid it. Exactly like the bodybuilder’s pizza place did. They differentiated themselves from the competition and began operating in the bodybuilder’s pizza market. It is a pretty small niche market, but they now have a monopoly in it.
As long as no one starts competing with them early on and they scale fast, they’ll still be the dominant business in the market. So what’s so bad about competition?
The problem with competition is that it wastes people’s efforts and forces them to survive rather than innovate. Innovation is what keeps our economy moving forward. Look at all the huge companies out there that are taking lead in all the innovation, they all have some kind of monopoly.
For example, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Each of those companies have a monopoly:
- According to Smartinsights, Facebook owns 80% of the social network market.
- According to Theeword, Google owns just over 88% of the search engine market.
- According to Time, Microsoft owns just over 90% of the computer operating systems market (not for smartphones).
Although no company owns 100%, they do own the majority share and that’s what makes them super successful. However, these companies did not start big. They took over a small market and then scaled up from there (just like the pizza place). Facebook became popular in Harvard College then other colleges and then the whole world. It didn’t take over the whole world over night. The same with Google and the rest of the world’s largest companies. That’s exactly what you should do too.
5. How much will you get paid exactly?
Your income is proportional to the value you provide. First, let’s define value. Value simply put is answering the following question: How can I help people more? That means the more you help people the more you’ll get paid in return. It’s as simple as that. Whenever you want to create a product, always ask yourself, how can I help my target customer even more? Just make sure it’s something they really need help with.
6. What’s in it for me?
Who cares about features! People want to know what’s in it for them. What benefit do they get out of it? What problem does it solve for them? There are two types of benefits, logical and emotional (also known as the head and the heart benefits). People simultaneously weigh whether something fits well, is affordable, addresses a need – head part – and whether it makes them happy, look good and loved – heart part.
Features fall into the logical part. As an entrepreneur you should figure out what emotional needs you can fulfill along with the logical ones. You’ll stand out when you do that since a lot of entrepreneurs only focus on logical features. Remember, the power of emotions!
7. Are they talking about you?
You’ve probably heard of “word of mouth” or referral marketing and it’s greatness. That’s true, every business needs some sort of “word of mouth” marketing especially in the start.
Want to know how NOT to get it? Be boring! People don’t talk about boring. Have you ever talked to someone about what you had for breakfast last week? No, you wouldn’t even care to remember it, let alone talk about it. But, you can guess it was probably the same old boring breakfast.
Want to know how to get people to talk about you? By surprising customers. That’s because people talk about surprising out of the ordinary experiences. It usually sounds a bit like this:
“You can’t believe what happened yesterday! I ordered a Latte from the XYZ café and oh man, the interior design is just out of this world, I’ve never seen anything like it. I even got a free blueberry muffin and it was the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. You should really go and check it out.”
It doesn’t have to be something too big and expensive. In fact, it shouldn’t. Something as little as a hand written thank you card or tiny gift will go a long way. Whatever you do make sure you’re not boring, otherwise everyone will forget about you.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
So there you have it. The 7 business fundamentals needed to run a successful business. Nevertheless, knowing them won’t help. You need to act! You can read all the books you want, but it won’t mean anything if you’re not taking action.
Write them on a notepad and refer to them whenever you’re making your business decisions. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do that counts. If you don’t act now, someone else reading this post will.
Which tip do you think is the most important and why? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
You Are The Problem With Your Business
A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.
I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.
Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.
Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?
Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.
The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.
Your company is a reflection of you.
It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.
One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.
The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.
In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.
The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.
The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.
Take responsibility and it will change.
When you own the business, everything is your fault.
You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.
The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.
Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.
Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.
Change is a must.
Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.
“Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”
You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.
Not the business.
The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up
You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.
How to Evaluate Success
As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.
But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson
When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?
The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.
So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.
1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems
The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.
This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.
In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.
Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).
In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins
For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.
The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.
Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.
4. Time for Friends and Family
As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.
Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.
A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.
The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.
I spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.
I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.
People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.
This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.
I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.
I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.
That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.
Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.
I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.
They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.
All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.
Your clients tell you every day that you suck.
I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.
Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.
The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.
That wasn’t it.
You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.
I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.
Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.
The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.
They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.
“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.
I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.
The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.
It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.
The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.
You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.
A good business solves a problem.
That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.
This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.
Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.
Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.
Solving only your problem will make you poor.
The problem still wasn’t their website or product.
Creating more problems.
Everything this business owner sold created more problems.
They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.
They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.
They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.
Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.
If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.
The heart of the problem.
It’s the business owner.
The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.
The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.
You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.
Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.
Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.
Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.
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