Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Thinking about starting a business? The list of things you think you need to figure out before you can start is probably a mile long, isn’t it?
Well, good news. You can start talking to potential customers and validating your business idea today.
While most entrepreneurs get caught up in paralysis by analysis, product development, or writing a business plan, you don’t need to.
In reality, a business plan can be helpful — but it isn’t entirely necessary. Yes, it’s important to think through who your customers and competitors are, to create a unique value proposition, and to assess the market you’re entering. But you can do those things in a week or less, and you can get started on your new business in other ways before the end of the day today.
Think Like a Scientist
Scientists accept there are a number of unknowns around their work. They work in laboratories to test their hypotheses by conducting experiments. The outcomes of their experiments provide them with new information, which either validates their assumptions, contradicts their assumptions, or leads them to determine they need more information to make any useful inferences from the data — in which case they run more experiments or change directions altogether.
As a new or aspiring business owner, we must accept that there are many unknowns. Figure out the key experiments and tests you need to run to see if you have a viable business, and then get started testing them right away.
It’s time to get out of the lab and onto the playing field.
The best way to see if you have a real business is through market validation — meaning, talk to real-life potential customers and ask them questions about your idea for a product or service. What features would they like to see? How likely would they be to purchase your product or service? What would they be willing to pay for XYZ? Who are they currently using for ABC?
Keep in mind your product or service doesn’t even actually need to exist yet.
You’ll gain valuable insights by talking to your potential customers, and find out if you are on the right track or if there is a better path to follow.
Pick Up the Phone
Many would-be entrepreneurs have a fear of making cold calls. I’ve talked to too many businesses who say they have identified 10 potential customers as they continue to build their product, and then start their business without even reaching out to talk to those potential clients.
Huge mistake! Pick up the phone and call your 10 potential clients. Talk to them about the potential benefits of your business, ask questions, and validate whether the key assumptions you’re making are correct.
If your product or service isn’t ready yet, that’s okay. If all 10 potential customers aren’t interested, call 10 more. Keep track of the feedback you receive, and keep reaching out to 10 new potential customers until you’ve contacted at least 100 potential clients.
Every contact you make with a potential customer provides valuable information about the direction you’re heading in. Feeling extra motivated? Make 10 calls a day to potential customers for a year. The information you will gather will provide you the insights you need to create the value your customers are looking for, and will help your business get going on the right foot.
Ready for the best part? This can all be done for free, and this is something you can do in just a few minutes a day. And you can get started on this today.
If you need some additional ideas on how to stop procrastinating and take more action, check out these notes to Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog.”
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao-Tzu
Joe Sweeney is a social entrepreneur, committed to helping individuals and organizations grow and solve problems. Most recently, he was the co-founder and CEO at 100state, a nonprofit, startup community of entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators in Madison, Wis. Joe was recently named one of 53 entrepreneurs on Madison Magazine’s “M List: The New Who’s Who” for his work with 100state.