Over the last few years, the amount of relevant, interesting and helpful content for entrepreneurs has grown exponentially. From launching a product to finding new customers, there’s a blog post, eBook or postcard for everything startup related.
This is great for entrepreneurs, but in some ways it’s also a bad thing. Since there’s so much content out there about starting and running a business, it’s easy to spend more time reading about growing your startup than actually doing it.
I’m a big believer in learning by taking action, whether it’s learning how to launch a new product from scratch or grow a business from zero to thousands of customers over several months.
In this guide, I want to share five simple principles that you can use to rapidly build, launch, validate a grow a business without spending your time on the distractions of how-to guides, online courses and other helpful but time-consuming resources.
You’ll learn more from doing than from 100+ online courses
Online courses and books are immensely helpful for entrepreneurs, and there’s no shortage of great content on sites like Udemy and CreativeLive. However, you will learn 100 times more by taking action than you will from preparing to take action.
If you have a great business idea, your goal shouldn’t be to prepare for everything before you launch. Your goal should be to go from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur as quickly as possible, even if it means launching without as much preparation.
You’ll learn the basics of customer support 100 times faster when your business has real customers than before it launches. You’ll learn how to market a product faster if you actually have a product than you would without one.
Reading and studying are hugely valuable for creating a successful business, but the time to read is after your business has launched, not while it’s still an idea you spend time pondering. Take action first, then look at online courses.
Start reading when you discover a problem, not beforehand
A great way to learn the skills you need to grow your business rapidly is to think of books, courses, podcasts and other business-related content as a prescription for a specific problem your business is experiencing, not as a preventative measure.
Imagine you’ve got the flu. You visit your doctor, receive a prescription for medicine and take the medicine to cure the flu. This is the approach you should take when an issue arises for your business.
Start reading once you discover a problem, whether it’s a shortage of customers or a problem with your website’s design. Your goal should be to solve the issue as fast as possible and move on to the next step in your business’s development.
There’s nothing wrong with learning before you start your business, but it should be something you do to address and solve a specific problem you have right now, not to prepare yourself for problems that might not even happen after you launch.
No, you don’t need expensive custom design or development
Design and development can be expensive timewasters when you’re first launching your business. It’s nice to have a beautiful website, but spending a lot of time on the way your website looks slows you down and sets back your launch date.
Use a bootstrap template or WordPress theme to launch your website, even if your website ends up looking generic and replaceable as a result. Design doesn’t matter as much as you think it does, especially in the early days of your business.
Did Gmail have a perfect interface when it launched? No, and it’s undergone huge revisions since its launch to constantly make it better. As long as your website is functional and clean, design won’t hold you back from achieving your goals.
Like design, custom development is another expensive, time-consuming task that can slow down your launch. Sites like GitHub and Code Canyon are full of code for almost any project that can quickly and easily be customised to meet your needs.
Marketing is the key to success. Make it your first priority
One of the biggest mistakes wantrepreneurs make is assuming that customers will start flocking to your business once it launches for no reason other than it simply being available.
Not so. Without the right marketing and sales strategy, your business isn’t going to get any traction, regardless of how good it might be. Once you launch, marketing is going to be your top priority and where you’ll spend 90% of your time.
If your product or service is inexpensive and has mass appeal, your goal should be to reach a wide audience either through advertising or through the media. If your audience is smaller and more valuable, your goal should be to sell directly to it.
Just like with designing and building your business, it’s always better to do than to study when it comes to sales and marketing. Launch your campaign, whether it’s a PR effort or a PPC campaign, as soon as you can and study only when you need to.
The best validation is sales, not feedback from your peers
The popularity of the Lean Startup movement has made validation more popular than ever before. Validating your startup is a great idea, but the problem is most people validate their business or startup idea using the wrong audience.
Your friends and peers aren’t your target customers, and their opinion will never tell you as much about your business as the thoughts of a real customer that pays you for your product will.
Validate your business by generating sales, not by asking for feedback from people that aren’t customers or clients. The key, once again, is to take action and launch as soon as you can so that real, paying customers can provide you with feedback.
Stop reading, stop doing online courses and just take action
Books, online courses and podcasts are all fantastic resources for learning the basics of launching and running a business. But all too often they become distractions and causes of inaction – barriers that stop you from actually doing the necessary work.
If you have a startup idea, take a pen and paper and write down the steps required to launch. Put a checkbox beside each task on your list and tick them off, in order, as each one is completed.
Each time you check off an item on your list, the next item becomes your focus. Put 100% of your efforts into finishing each task on your list and in very little time, you will have a minimum viable product that’s ready to enter the marketplace.
Too much learning can stop you from taking the action you need to take to get your business idea out there. Stop reading, stop taking online courses, stop listening to a podcast and take action to get your product out there in front of its audience.
Once the customers start coming in, that is when you can start learning about how to make your business better.