I was thinking about business and at what point it becomes possible to believe you have a good chance of winning. I came to the conclusion that four elements pave the way to start-up success.
The four elements are:
- Your concept has been validated in market.
- You know what to do.
- You know how to do it.
- You are actually doing it – right now.
If you work through these four elements, then success is inevitable. Of course, all of these elements need some explaining.
1. Your concept has been validated in market
Firstly, let’s look at the last two words in this sentence – in market. This means you have launched, you are live, and you have customers and revenue. We have gone beyond the idea (the easy part) and launched something, which makes the original business launch plan a historical and irrelevant document. Until this point, there is no proof that anyone actually cares about your idea; that anyone will buy your thing.
Concept validation – this occurs when people are buying what you sell, as well as any positive coverage you receive. Positive coverage includes people and media talking about what you are doing – not what technology you have used, or how you bootstrapped your business (which is not concept validation, but method validation), but talking about the benefits your business is providing customers and the problems you are solving. This coverage is about them, not you. At this point, you know the business has potential and isn’t a stupid whim.
2. You know what to do
You’ve been doing what you do – selling what you sell – long enough to know the crappy parts of your business. You know what you must improve to make your semi-broken yet still alive start-up better. You’ve worked out where the original model and plan was terribly wrong. You’ve also been around long enough to gather feedback from the market, which gives you a good indication of how to improve your ‘thing’. Until this point, innovation, location, good people and lots of saying sorry has kept you alive. But time has nearly run out, and you’ve learned what must be done to grow and eventually thrive.
3. You know how to do it
Not only do you understand the above conceptually, but you actually know how to make this stuff happen. You’ve gone beyond ideas for improvement, such as make the website more usable, reduce the price of the widget, create national brand awareness or increase distribution. Now you actually have an executable plan in place.
So what is an executable plan? An executable plan is a set of projects that are achievable with the immediate resources you have at your disposal, in a reasonable timeframe. Financial resources, human resources, organisational infrastructure – an executable plan that you can deliver to the market, not a pipedream of appearing on Oprah or getting funding from Sequoia Capital. You have the team with the skills to bring the improved offer to market. It may not require huge financial resources, it may involve more creative solutions, but you know you can do it.
4. You are actually doing it – right now
The plans have been put down as discussed in parts two and three. In fact, you won’t even need to look at them again. They are now ‘historical documents’. Instead, your team is fully engaged in implementing what you have agreed is the correct strategy. The steps to completing the projects are known. They are live projects the team is actively engaged in on a daily basis, which will fundamentally change the marketing mix of your business. The projects have budgets and deadlines and you will not rest until they have been completed. Only then will you need to go back to part two again, and work out what to do. Then go through the process again. In fact, this process never ends. In continues in perpetuity. The important thing is that you implement strategies before re-viewing them. There is nothing more counterproductive than constantly re-assessing what to do. The only way to know what works is to experiment and do it.
When we do this – we are on the path to success. This should perhaps be defined as: “Success = the progressive realisation of a worthwhile ideal.”
Stephen Sammartino escaped his cubicle after 10 years marketing global brands. He has now founded two start-ups, recently launching Rentoid.com – the place to rent anything.
Photo: Diamond Rain