You don’t need to inherit $4 million from Uncle Joe. You don’t need to drop out of Harvard. Call it bootstrapping.
Just follow a few simple rules.
Rule 1: Slice and dice your business idea. Why do you think it is worthwhile? Who else thinks so? Has it been done before? How do you differentiate your idea from everyone else’s version of the same thing? Being self-critical costs nothing. Poke holes in your idea. Rearrange it on paper. Find the flaw. Build in workarounds if you can’t solve it right now. Get in the game how and let things evolve. Don’t try for perfect on the first day of business.
Rule 2: Find a mentor. Find someone who can challenge you. Ask them to pick apart your idea. Take the input back to the drawing board. Don’t take it personally. Listen carefully. Start the debate. Map it out. Pros and cons of this way or that? Identify people who have been there already. What roadblocks did they overcome? What did they expect? Listen and learn. You aren’t trying for perfect. Let things evolve.
Rule 3: Focus on the needs of your customer. Why are they doing business with you? What do they want? What can you deliver that no one can? You need a variety of ideas. Don’t walk around saying “I have a lot of people who want x” when in fact it is one customer. In designing the product or service…think like the customer. Not sure what your customers are thinking about their last visit? Call them and ask. My buddy ran a pizza business. He used to deliver the pizzas himself. He would stand in the doorway and watch the reaction of the customer opening their pizza box. He used to ask them… “what should I tell the boss?” then he listened. Brilliant doesn’t have to be complicated.
Rule 4: Reinvest the money you make early back into your business. Don’t pay yourself yet. Spend the early dollars on building the customer experience. Spend the early dollars on refining the product or service.
Rule 5: Smart is very obtainable if not cheap and unexpected. Maybe you don’t need a phone line in the store? Let customers IM you if they want to talk. Even grandma can do it. Think about it.
Rule 6: Get the business out there in the spotlight ASAP. Just like in Rule #5…Smart, cheap, and unexpected. Fortunes have been made on air ware. Learn from it. Publicity before the launch lets you tweak here and there. Don’t sit there. Do it. Start now.
Rule 7 Listen to your Mother. First of all, you need to be able to keep a secret when it benefits you. My mother used to tell me. “Gimbels doesn’t tell Horne’s its business.” If you are from Pittsburgh, ask your Mom or Dad what that means. Keep the internal workings a secret. Don’t post your early strategy on-line for the world to see. Learn to operate in stealth mode. It is a competitive advantage that will pay you back.