5 Lessons That Separate Good Ideas From Building A Successful Business.

Lessons To Tranform Ideas Into Business

The hallmark of any entrepreneur is having ideas. You can’t help it. They just come to you. If you’re anything like me, you woke up this morning thinking of another idea.

To qualify as a successful entrepreneur though– to really be effective– there’s more to it than ideas.

I’ve learned the hard way ideas aren’t enough. In my last 14 years in business, I’ve noticed there are five not-so-obvious lessons. I wish someone had told them to me before I got started.

  1. Put what you don’t need to worry about in a black box. Focus on what’s most important to where you’re at now. 
  2. Set a goal and take immediate action using the resources you have now. 
  3. Analyze the feedback you get quickly. Then, double down on what works. Get rid of what doesn’t. 
  4. Worry about marketing first, advertising second. 
  5. Build your audience using partners not one person at a time. It takes too long. Instead, create relationships with influencers.

These lessons make the difference between a good idea and one that gets off the ground.

By learning these 5 crucial entrepreneurship lessons, anyone can get their business or idea off the ground.

1) Stuff All Your Unknowns In A Block Box

Black Box Approach

Don’t worry about what doesn’t matter right now. Instead of worrying about all the moving parts in your business, try to focus on what matters most in the moment. Take the “Black Box Approach.” 

Know what brings in business. Know what turns business into sales. But, don’t get hung up on all the pieces in between. You can’t be an expert at it all anyway.

In 2005, I had a great idea for an advertising tool. It helped bloggers make money. I tried to figure out everything out before starting. This took too long. We ran out of time and money. Competitors had time to move in with their own tool. It wasn’t as good as ours. They just moved faster than I did. In reality, only five percent of what I was concerned about really mattered.

Acknowledge all the steps in being successful, but only worry the factors that matters most right now. Stuff everything else in a black box. Focus your goals and plans on those factors.

2) Set a Goal And Start With What’s Immediately Available

Start action now

Before doing anything, make a goal. Put it on paper. Then make a plan. Your plan is a list of your best guesses of the steps required to achieve your goal. Some of the steps may not be possible–for now.

Look at the first item on your plan. Figure out what you’d like to do versus what you can do right now. Do that and do it immediately.

What you can or can’t do is a function of your resources: energy, time and money (in that order). Work backwards from those.

Take the most immediate action you can using the resources available to you today. Forget about what you can’t do now.

With immediate action, you’ll know better how to focus your resources in the future to get to the next step. Without action, you’ll know nothing more than you know today.

3) Leverage The Law of Imbalance By Doubling Down On What Works.

80/20 Principle

There are only two outcomes of your most immediate action.

Either it makes a big difference and it’s easy to do, or it makes no significant difference and it’s hard to do.

This is the “Law of Imbalance”, better known as the 80/20 Principle. Effort and results are not equal.

Chop off the parts that aren’t working. This whole process should happen in less than 30-90 days. Look continuously ever 30-90 days. This is the formula for doing less and getting more.

Leverage this imbalance. Find the parts that are working. Find what’s least difficult. Invest more resources in those. Double down on what’s working.

You may be tempted to start something new, or start over, when 100% of your immediate actions don’t pan yield results. Don’t do that.

Read “The 80/20 Principle”, by Richard Koch, for more on the Law of Imbalance.

4) Put Marketing First And Advertising Second.

Put marketing first

Marketing is telling your ideal client what you do over and over. Not all marketing tactics have to cost money. Don’t be fooled.

If you’re just starting your business, chances are you’re thinking about how to afford advertising. Stop. Don’t confuse advertising and marketing. 

What works the best, especially for my clients in service businesses, is direct contact and follow-up.

If were to make a list of six tactics, advertising would be last on the list. Direct contact and follow up would be first.

Your plans and actions should focus on putting the most effort in the most effective marketing tactics. Since advertising is least effective, it should come in last, as a supplement to good marketing.

5) Creating An Audience Is Necessary, But Don’t Create Your Own To Start.

Create an Audience

To get your business off the ground, you have to have an audience. Doing it one-by-one takes too long. You have to build your own audience by networking with people who already talk to your ideal client.

If you can’t build an audience in 3 months or less, you probably won’t stay in business. You have to do it quickly. This means you can’t create your own to start.

Marc Allen gives a good example in his book, Type Z Guide To Success. He explains how his friend figured about how to beat the school record for candy bar sales. He realized selling to one person at a time was too slow. Instead, he focused on finding people he knew who worked in an office. They took the candy bars to work. Once he did this, he started selling a box at a time. Using this same strategy the kid goes on to create a billion-dollar company.

Copy this strategy for building your own audience in the next 3 months.

These five lessons can turn an idea into a successful business. They can help you become an effective and successful entrepreneur.

What’s one important not-so-obvious lesson you’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur?


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Leave A Reply (2 comments So Far)

  • ward@nextanalytics.com

    Great post Matt.

    For my own advice in this area: Only go forward with an plan or idea if you can live with things being twice as bad as your most pessimistic forecast whether it be timing, funding, or revenue. IMO, if you can’t handle this happening, then either starting businesses is not for you or your’re not in a position (at the moment) to handle what might happen.

    • http://mattdeyoung.com/ Matt DeYoung

      Great point. The book “Action Trumps Everything” talks about how the most successful entrepreneurs analyze their “acceptable downside” before taking the next step. They decide whether their willing to lose ‘x’ amount of resources in order to take the next step.
      Thanks for sharing your insights. I know they come from hard won lessons.

About Matthew

Over the last 14 years, Matthew has worked with businesses of all sizes--from $1M to over $100M in annual sales. Using a coach-consulting model, Matthew addresses the most universal challenges facing leaders today: how to create effective strategies to start, grow, or change. The result is a greater focus to amplify the ideas they value most.  »Full bio »Client comments

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