Yesterday was a mess. I personally cost the company money with a careless mistake by slothing about a problem from the previous day instead of moving on. Then by midday I noticed one of our revenue channels was no longer working due to a technical problem on the billion dollar company side (that they refused to admit). To adapt on our side would have taken about 70 hours of work non stop work to get us back up and running quickly.
I was overwhelmed and decided to take a nap. I woke up and the tension from my shoulders were gone. I saw the problem for what it is, just another task or something waiting to be solved, and I was now in the frame of mind to begin working on a [proper] solution.
“Ding”, that was my phone alerting me that we had received a payment and essentially that the revenue channel was back up and running. It turns out that hour on the phone and a few emails back and forth with tech support helped them discover that there was a problem on their end. (of course they’ll never reply back and apologize. It’s ok, I forgive them).
When everything goes wrong, my best advice is to take a nap. For me thats literal. For you it might just mean taking a break, or stepping away or excusing yourself from the problem. You need to distance yourself from the problem, even if it means pretending like it’s someone else’s to allow yourself to think through it clearly.
What do you do when everything goes wrong ?
I was speaking to the CEO of a startup in the service industry and he was telling me that he needs to raise money for a truck, equipment and uniform to get started. I asked him why he needed all those things and his reply was “For when I get customers, I can show them I’m ready”.
Many entrepreneurs believe they need to have a polished or complete product or just something tangible in their hands to get started in business. The truth is you DON’T. What you need are sales (intent to purchase counts in this scenario). Sales is what you need to get started in business and not an actual product. You can have the greatest idea since sliced bread, but if you don’t have someone willing to pay for it, its pointless.
You may be asking now, “How do I get sales without a product ?”
Step 1 – Identify the problem you are trying to solve and the customer you are trying to solve it for.
Step 2 – Tell said customer you’re providing a solution to their problem and convey the value and end benefits to them.
Step 3 – See if they are willing to pay for such a solution (if you can get them to pay before delivery like a kickstarter model, more power to you).
Step 4 – Repeat steps 2 & 3 a few more times.
Step 5 – Figure out how to get customer from Step 1, what you said you could in Step 2, for a cost to you less than what they’re willing to pay in Step 3.
Don’t not (yes double negative because its that serious) start your business because you believe you do not have a product or service ready. Pitch it like you have it already and see if people are willing to pay. It’ll be much easier for you to build a team or fund raise if you can walk in the room and say. I have ‘X’ customers ready to pay ‘Y’ for this product. I just need ______ to get it to them. The alternative is “I have the next billion dollar idea. It’s so amazing that you just have to trust me. If we build it they will come..”
P.S. That CEO I mentioned with 0 dollars already gained customers by simply pitching his service and telling them when it’ll be ready. You can do it too.
It’s been over a year since I last posted. I want to tell you the reason is because I have been busy and we’ve been growing fast (this is true, but still an excuse). The truth is, I just thought I didn’t have time.
We’re all given 24 hours in a day. Make time and prioritize the things you would like to do and just do it.. I’m back.
At 16, I worked in retail for a gentleman who helped greatly shape my views on customer service. My first day at work he said to me “Details, details details, pay attention to details”. He then wanted me to fully understand that he was not my boss, but that every customer that walked through the door, whether or not they purchased was my boss, and that my paycheck came directly from them.
That’s something I have never forgotten. As entrepreneurs, its important for us to remember this and more importantly to act accordingly. At the end of the day we are providing a product or service for which we expect to receive financial compensation. Do that well and you will attract customers. Treat such customers as if they’re your boss, listen to them and they’ll pay you, again and again and again.
I repeat “the customers are your boss…”. What’s the oldest lesson in business that you’ve had stuck with you ?
“I sipped my tea, hit send, and walked away…”
We have a notification service that alerts users based upon a preset criteria. I woke up at my usual 5am and quickly noticed my company sent out an email to a subset of users notifying them of a situation they were in that was false. If this was a few years ago, I would probably have freaked out and focused on how could this happen and dwell on the fact that I made a mistake. Thanks to my many bumps and bruises over the years, I handled the situation a bit differently this time. Below are the steps that I took:
- Remained Calm - The only thing worse than making a mistake is compounding it by making another due to not thinking clearly. It also helps that I tell myself it could be worse (Snapchat hacked).
- Assessed the situation – Checked the logs to see what caused the problem, and how many of our users were affected.
- Stopped the bleeding – Discovered the root of the problem and patched it up.
- Draft a public apology – I personalized it, took responsibility, made no excuses, told them the issue was resolved and reminded them of our how important they are (not their business) is to us.
- Stepped away – a reinforcement of step # 1. Find something relaxing to do before sending out the apology. I made myself some tea.
- Send – I pressed send.
- Point your finger – Not at the team, or yourself, but at the problem and discuss strategies and steps to avoid this happening in the future.
- Celebrate – Mistakes happen, and you’re running a business. This means it will probably happen again. What differentiates successful entrepreneurs is how we respond to the problem versus reacting to it.
Have you ever had to apologize to your customers ? How did you handle it ?
I saw this on tumblr and decided to share:
“The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.”
– Unknown to me
“Discipline is the art of remembering what you want.”
– David Campbell
Proper company names can be extremely powerful as they have the ability to instantly convey a message of what your company does on their own. A client of mine submitted on a piece of napkin potential names for their startup, and all included the spelling of his last name. I gave him the task of coming up with a few other options that perhaps could represent or symbolize what the company does.
The point of the exercise wasn’t to suggest you can’t be successful using your name, ie Donald Trump, or the name has to represent what you do i.e. Apple. It was instead to get him to think about the fact that as an entrepreneur, its not about you, it’s about your users.
Whether it be the name, product or service, the decisions you make in your business should reflect what your audience value and how you are satisfying their needs. It’s much easier to get someone to pay you if you’re giving them what they want vs having to first convince them.
Coming up with names for my businesses was a long process, and I won’t even get started on domain names. What was your naming experience like ?
As a kid I was always taking things apart curious to see how they work. I saw the world in solutions as oppose to problems and quickly knew I wanted to fix things. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and the best piece of advice I ever got was simply the word “START”. It wasn’t until my 20′s that I truly understood what my father meant.
As a developer, I meet individuals everyday that say to me “Oh you’re an app developer, I have an idea”. When asked what have they done with the idea so far, 9 out of 10 times, the answer is nothing. If you have an idea or something you want done, no matter what it is just START. To START means that everyday you make sure you’re a bit farther than you were the day before. It could be one step or it could be twenty, the distance is not so important at this point. Write the idea down, ask a friend what they think, ask a stranger, the point is do something with it. Take it to that next level.
So what’s your idea ?