I’ve learned a lot when I was still starting my business, Padlifter. To start, here are lessons 1-5. We will discuss the rest on the next article …
1. Carve out a Niche.
Despite what mass media would lead us to believe, you don’t need to be the creator of the iPhone, Facebook, or the electric car to have something unique to offer the world.
Some ideas simply do what’s always been done, but cheaper or better. Some ideas come along and tackle an existing problem from a slightly different angle. And yes, some ideas are brand new and revolutionary in what they have to offer the world.
Where your idea sits on this spectrum is far less important than why you and your business are uniquely positioned to offer your customers something they simply can’t get from anyone else.
What that something is will be entirely up to you.
Are you better? Faster? Cheaper? Friendlier? More available? The possibilities are endless. What matters is why customers should choose you over others.
Understand your competition and what makes you different, but focus on what makes you great—not them.
2. Every Problem Has a Solution.
If there’s one universal certainty when growing a business, it’s that stuff will hit the fan. And in the absence of believing that every problem has a solution, any one of these inevitable challenges will be enough to risk sinking the ship.
When your default starting point is the belief that every problem can be overcome, the next-steps are naturally to:
Understand the universe of available options.
Weigh their relative pros and cons.
Make the best decision that’s available to you here and now.
Don’t fix your problems. Fix your thinking. Then the problems fix themselves.
Matt Damon explains this better than I can in the following 27-sec clip from The Martian. Watch it here.
3. You’re Not the First One to Have That Problem.
Unless you’re Einstein spelling out the laws of relativity or Newton discovering why stuff falls to the ground, there are very few problems for which you or I (or anyone for that matter) will be the first person that’s ever needed to figure it out.
We live in fortunate times; in the age of information, ignorance is a choice. And the sort of problems aspiring business owners need to solve on a day-to-day basis are commonly problems of a technical or informational nature.
Need to source the cheapest product? Google it!
Need to understand how international shipping works? Watch a YouTube video.
Need to learn how to code? Enroll in a free Udemy online course.
As an example, I received quotes for building the Padlifter website that ranged between the “cheapest” option for $12,500 to a higher-end option for $42,000. After signing up with WordPress for free, learning basic coding, finding some free (or near-free) plugins, and teaching myself how to create explainer videos, I ended up building the entire site for a total cost of $517.07.
In addition to the financial savings, I now know about content management systems, web design and development, SEO, web hosting, and graphic design for web and online marketing—just to name a few new skills. All of these are as a result of having learned from the time-tested knowledge, skills, and capabilities of experts that live and breathe these things on a day-to-day basis. I plan on leveraging these new skills in everything and anything I continue to do.
Be resourceful. Seek out expert (often free) advice and save yourself from reinventing the wheel when overcoming each and every little hiccup you encounter.
4. Knowing What Doesn’t Work Is as Important as Knowing What Does.
It’s one thing to pass the chemistry test by memorizing the textbook. It’s another thing to pass it because you understand how atoms and molecules actually work.Taking the time to educate yourself on the universe of options and their relative pros and cons is an investment in ensuring that the answer you arrive at is the right one for the right reasons.
It is also an investment in your knowledge that’ll build the necessary experience and context that makes future decisions easier too.
As an example, there are many pricing table plugins available for WordPress. The leading plugins are all very similar, yet each offers something slightly unique (they obviously read lesson #1!).
Deciding which one was right for me required downloading the trial versions from a top-5 shortlist and simply investing some time in road-testing each to determine fit and suitability.
Much of the CSS coding I learned in making modifications to the “wrong” four that weren’t selected taught me the skills I needed to make near-exact changes in minutes—not hours—to the “right” one that ultimately was selected.
As long as you’ve done your due diligence, and made the best decision from the available information, don’t mark yourself too hard on a less-than-perfect outcome. In many instances you will not get it right the first time around.
And so long as you learn from your mistakes and make better decisions next time, you’ll be better off for having made the wrong decision for the right reasons than the right decision for the wrong reasons.
5. It’ll Get Lonely.
Somewhere along the way, something will have triggered a desire within you to transform an idea living in your head into a living, breathing (and hopefully profitable) operational business.
The operative word here is ‘your.’
Whether it was a light-bulb moment in the middle of a salsa class or a visit from the ghost of great auntie Beatrice in your sleep, the point is—they are your ideas.
Don’t expect others to fully conceive the vision or share your passion. Don’t let the absence of a live and operational business dilute your drive or determination. Don’t allow self-doubt or hesitation to replace your hunger and appetite.
Maintain the resolve to build the world-class business you’ve envisaged from day one and let its success be a testimony to what you’ve been able to see all along.