I run across a lot of people who are rooting around for the next great business idea. I spend most of my time covering my ears, singing out loud and hopping on one foot -- trying desperately to keep ideas from bombarding my every thought. Such is the personality type of the compulsive problem solver. Such is me. To successfully cut through the noise, I found Steve Bennett. Steve is my Advisor, Investor, CEO Coach and Friend. He also ran Intuit for 7 years, produced some killer products and hails from the Jack Welch school of GE, so he knows what he's talking about. In reality all entrepreneurs, with their limitless ambition and big dreams, need a Steve ...
This is how a "Steve" can help you get your product completed and business launched:
1. Focus: The single most important, and also most challenging, skill for entrepreneurs. Whenever I get carried away telling Steve what a great white label solution I will have and how I plan to expand to foreign markets, he sobers me. "It may be all those things. But let's launch first." And he's right. Without proving the basic value, there's no point in exploring what could be. Identify the core value you're offering, and prove it out. If it really works, options will be the least of your concern. ("Of course, that second product iteration is actually really cool... let me tell you about it..." Ouch!)
2. Devil is in the Details: If you are crazy passionate about your idea, chances are you also have a tough time boiling it down to "the big idea." Explaining your value proposition in a sentence thwarts many an entrepreneur with fund-raising and with launch success. And as Leonardo da Vinci says, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." An informed mentor will challenge you to really think this through. It took Steve about three weeks to get me to own that level of clarity. And he still has to pull me back to center every so often. I was an early Google adopter -- why? Because it had one, and only one goal, or "call to action," for its' users. SEARCH. And they executed on that one critical action with extreme alacrity and substantive results. (Love to know my search took 16 seconds! Superfast!) So take some time to identify THE big idea, focus on doing it better than anyone else, and don't get caught up in the labyrinth of all those awesome functionalities. (Awwww, man, this is soooo hard!)
3. Run Before you Walk: It's hard to see who I am when there's so much I can become! Reality bites. Some like to visualize it to realize it. Others say build it and they will come. Whatever your metaphor, the key here is that the capacity of the business has to match the reality of resources, development and bodies. I made an early mistake by cutting a great deal with Dunn & Bradstreet for my search engine way before we had the capacity to integrate it. Both Steve and Allen Morgan have talked me out of some pretty exciting partnerships pre-launch. It's easy to be flattered when you've been struggling for recognition. Don't succumb! If your business is tech, finish the technology. If it's green like Ian Wright's super amazingly fast drive train that saves tons of money, then build the drive train. If it's building the next perpetual motion machine, well, as my bud Jamis of Buck's would say, "forgetaboutit!"
4. Prioritize: People in venture will always tell you -- "Launch!" OK, so not all launches should be shoved out the door, but the idea is right. Get your product or business into the market and improve or expand it later. Prove one thing that puts you above the noise, and save the rest for later. Unfortunately this is an idea that may take awhile to seep in because all those little extra's are such fun to create...
Getting a product out the door and successfully launched, for any entrepreneur, is directly related to one's ability to honestly identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and to get the input they need to compensate for the weaknesses. That's why I found my Steve Bennett. He keeps my overactive problem solving mind focused on one single execution. Motivation takes many forms: children, affirmation of your friends/family, personal passion, faith. Whatever your reason, if you want someone to put their money where your mouth is, you have to block everything else out, focus on one big idea, be realistic about your capacity and prioritize the things that are directly related to executing on that one big idea.
But more important, find your own Steve Bennett. Without the advice and counsel of someone who has done it before, whose skills are directly related to your business and who has skin in the game, it is very, very, very difficult to view your business with objectivity and recalibrate accordingly. Because success is collaborative, in this instance, at least, it does take a village. (More about how to build your village in my next blog...)
Inspire, Innovate, Illuminate.