“Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.’’ – Chris Sacca, Investor in Twitter & Uber
I learnt the hard way the truism of the above saying. I always cherished my startup business ideas. I held them sacrosanct. Walked on air as an ideas man, shoulders puffed like an Emperor.
At a certain age, when all around me was getting rich, and I was still hugging my ideas … I knew something had to change.
If you assimilate only one thing from this article … Execution is Everything.
You must carry this message in your mind and heart in your entrepreneurial journey.
So how do you execute your startup ideas to be successful?
Your mind is the theater where all the battles will be won or lost.
The economy will go up and come down … funds may be low … competition fierce … and future bleak.
If your mindset is fortified against failure, you will win.
Check out this telling account by Jim Cantrell, who helped Elon Musk start SpaceX.
“The one major important distinction that sets him apart is his inability to consider failure. It simply is not even in his thought process. He cannot conceive of failure and that is truly remarkable. It doesn't matter if its going up against the banking system (Paypal), going up against the entire aerospace industry (SpaceX) or going up against the US auto industry (Tesla). He can't imagine NOT succeeding and that is a very critical trait that leads him ultimately to success…What separated us, I believe, was his lack of even being able to conceive failure. I know this because this is where we parted ways at SpaceX. We got to a point where I could not see it succeeding and walked away. He didn't and succeeded. I have 25 years experience building space hardware and he had none at the time. So much for experience.” Jim Cantrell How did Elon Musk learn enough about rockets to run SpaceX?
Imagine having such a bulletproof mind against failure? Imagine applying this principle in your specific business startup … in politics … or to fight social ills? Imagine how powerful you can be?
How Do you Develop Such Mindset?
Pick up a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Go to the story of Ford and his impossible V-8 engine.
Read… read & read it again and again till you truly understand.
The principles Henry Ford put into play to achieve what his engineers has already called “impossible V-8 engine” is the same principles that Elon Musk deployed to achieve his SpaceX project when a Rocket Engineer of 25yrs had told him it is impossible.
2. Plan in Analogue
The humble pen and paper is one of the most cutting edge technology tools to help your small business startup.
Writing down your ideas, sketching them out, re-editing them and adding notes are some of the most productive daily activities you can do as a startup.
This process will also help you when you get to write your Business Plan.
All Important Itemized Checklist
As a busy startup, you have many things to do, fires to douse and projects to finish. If you don’t have an itemized checklist of timeline, list to do, you may skip some important steps of your startup journey.
You can also turn your checklist to a mindmap. Planning in analogue especially doing a mindmap gives you the luxury of having all your ideas on a page.
You must research your market. Is your product or service viable? Is there any gap in customers demand? Can you fill it? What do your customers want?
What happens when companies fail to do market research?
Ford engineers hunkered down in secret bunkers developing a car to end all cars. Though they polled customers they failed to integrate preferred features.
What happened when it was launched? The car bombed. Edsel became a case study in corporate failures and a reference in living in designers bubble.
Ford motors was so confident about Edsel that they pumped in $US250 million in 1958 dollars. They lost the money and more.
How do you do your research?
Research is easy and simple today:
You can go to forums focused on your products and services, and check the comments of users of already existing products and services.
This is a minefield of data for aspiring startups. You get to see their pains, aspirations and features they want.
Your research should give you info about your competition, their weakness and strength. This information helps you in positioning your offer and pricing.
Your research will also give you insight how to package your offer. If it is a software, will it be monthly or yearly subscription; or pay as you use? Without research you may never know what your customers want.
USP – Unique Selling Proposition
What differentiates your Startup Company, product or services from millions of others in the marketplace?
A careful analysis of your market research may show you unmet desires in your niche. Building your product or marketing on that USP will be the game changer.
FEDEX came up with “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.” When you have a package that absolutely has to get to the destination overnight, who do you go to?
Your market research will also help you on launching your startup products or services. How do you launch? Which media do you use? During research, you will get to know the media your target audience uses and how to reach them.
4. Startup Business Plan
As a startup, you will need a good business plan. When I say business plan, I don’t mean the antiquated 300 page business plan that takes 5yrs to write and no one gets to see it ever again.
Since the successful proposition of the Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a lot of management system has been affected by the lean startup methodology including the business plan. Read more about The 12 Steps of The Lean StartUp Business Plan
Here’s what a Harvard Article on Entrepreneurship has to say “But recently an important countervailing force has emerged, one that can make the process of starting a company less risky. It’s a methodology called the “lean start-up,” and it favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up front” development.” Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything
Instead of spending weeks writing business plan, the lean startup posit you do a rapid prototype and use it to test your market assumptions. From the customers’ usage feedback, you produce a better product. This is what is called “the build-measure-learn” loop.
You may be tempted to over hire. Don’t fall for such temptation. If you need only 2 Spartan warriors to hold the hordes of invaders, you don’t need to hire one more hand.
The recurring expenses of a bloated workforce will eat up your startup fund.
The refrain in startup funding is to go for it before you need it.
Don’t wait till you need extra funds before applying. Put simply, don’t go fishing when you are hungry.
If you are going to get outside funding, the earlier you start preparing the better.
If you decide to go the lean startup financing way which we advocate… deploy as fast as possible and use sales to fund your growth.
There are pros and cons in seeking outside funding: you must do your due diligence.
Funding your startup idea can come from your own savings, fellow founders, family and close friends.
The same way you assembled your team, you should assemble top Lawyers and accountants that will work with you.
Don’t think I can’t afford it. Always hire the best. You want an attorney experienced in startup laws, regulations and business. A good accountant will work with your attorney in determining your business structure and help with your tax planning.
Your business name is very important. Naming is a powerful power given to man.
In naming your business you have to put into consideration some points.
Keep it memorable. Keep it short unless the long form conveys meaning. Avoid hard to spell or easy to misspell names.
After choosing your business name, you will have to choose your business structure. Though it varies from country to country, your structure determines if you business will be a LLC, C-Corporation, S-Corporation or limited partnership.
To operate your startup business, many states require you become licensed. Some industries require you have permits before you operate. Make sure you get the necessary licenses and permits. Also ensure you understand local laws as it applies to your business.
The opening lines make for excellent startup advice “The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.
The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.”
The above steps will help you get your startup business going. But remember, all the step by step guides in the world, all the advice in the world will not help you if you don’t execute.
In parting, I leave you with a quote from Kenneth Chenault, "Many people don't focus enough on execution. If you make a commitment to get something done, you need to follow through on that commitment."
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