[The article was first published on LinkedIn here]
There’s always some distance to travel before you take the first step. It holds especially true for first-time entrepreneurs. So, it’s good practice to get A, B, C and D correct before hitting E, the first letter for every business adventure enthusiast:
‘A’ asks “A Plunge or A touch?” √
When aided by wings of a dream, life always seems much easier than what it eventually turns out to be. Nowhere does it read truer than in the life of a first-time entrepreneur. Yes, an idea can wreck your life – temporarily anyway.
So the first thing for you to decide is whether you can afford to do it full-time or bow to circumstances – both current and future – and secure your financial status first, and then begin your entrepreneurial journey – one small part-time step at a one.
Remember, in most cases, money does NOT start flowing in immediately (read ‘in the first year’). Moreover, venture capital / angel funding does not pay for your salary. On the contrary, you might have to pay for salaries of others even to get the project going.
‘B’ beckons “Better Early than Best” √
Many a reams of paper have played host to advice about the best time to enter the market. Many of those routinely go through questions like “are you sure you want to do this (motive)”, “are you / your team capable of doing this (know how)” and “who are you doing this for / who would be your *first* customers (market)”.
Those are all extremely valid questions. But the purpose of no question should be to tie the respondent down. In fact, questions should set the respondent free with the resulting knowledge.
Also, we are way past the age when there used to be a lead period. What you are thinking is being simultaneously thought by many others. And what you believe is a perfect product, may still require a whole series of modifications – either to make the product better or just simply to suit the needs and whims of the market. So, why not get a real feedback from the market and work upon it?
But to be able to reach there,
‘C’ commands “Clarity and Crystallization” √
Once you address the ‘who’ (would do), ‘what’ and ‘why’ part of the exercise, you reach the absolute crux of the challenge – how to do it.
You would be surprised to learn just how much the ‘how’ part affects the other three aspects – and help you fine tune the idea.
Once you reach that stage, you would be so clear and convinced about your idea that you would be able to explain it to your younger sister – and her friend who you fancy – in a matter of a few minutes. That is exactly what the people who you would be meeting for finance appreciate too.
The idea is this: Can you sum up the idea – from product to customers and the process – in a single tweet (140 characters)? That restriction is not necessary, but is immensely helpful.
Example: A premium day-time vegan takeaway in CBD of New York that caters to employees of UN and other nonprofits in the neighbourhood.
In merely 125 characters (including spaces), it informs readers about the business, its location, its customers and its price range.
‘D’ determines “Duration of the Dare” √
In our sales meetings, I often use the oft-quoted wisdom “targets without deadlines are merely dreams”. Put it in any words that you desire and it would still be true.
But my point here is not as much about tying down success to a demanding time limit as it is about you accepting and interpreting the results in time – to allow yourself to either change course or start afresh.
Late American actress Tallulah Bankhead had famously said: “If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” The thought, obviously, is not about wanting to make the same mistakes all over again but about having more time for other actions.
So, pre-decide a duration (rarely longer than 18 months) not just for *the* plan, but for that plan, its Plan B and even Plan C. If all of those fail within that duration, stop and re-evaluate – or relinquish the current pursuit. Taking a few steps back is often the first action towards acceleration.
Did you just tick all of the first four letters? Congratulations – you’re ready to hit ‘your first letter’ now! :- )