Friday, December 5, 2014

To You, Who Dares to Dream of Finding Success

To You, Who Dare's to Dream of Finding Success

Is your idea marketable and profitable? Make an experiment.




You have big dreams of finding success. You're human. You can't help it.

You have an idea of what success looks like. You like the idea. No, you love it. So naturally, it's time to develop your plan and start making things happen, right? Oh, the things you could do if you only had the money, or talked to the right person! That's what you're thinking...If only... Am I right? (I wouldn't have started BoomLife or written Finding Success if I didn't believe you were thinking this way)

As a SCORE volunteer, I encounter this line of thinking quite often when entrepreneurs tell me about their big idea. Then, right away, they ask me where they can get the grant, the funding, the financing that will make their dream a reality. You can imagine their disappointment and frustration with me when I tell them everything they are talking about is wrong, except MAYBE one thing: their idea.



The Truth About The Money 

Here's what I tell people with great ideas. Grants exist, but they are ghost-like in nature for the new idea,  nearly impossible to grasp. Investors will fund, but only proven opportunities. Banks will loan, but only to manageable risks. 

The Truth Behind The Truth About The Money

Here's what I tell people with great ideas who think they need the money. Money is granted, invested, loaned to help ideas that meet a need in the market grow (note the use of present tense there?). Entrepreneurs who have an unproven idea are looking for money for self-serving purposes. 

Some, not all, say this to me next. "But, I can't build my dream company...I can't invest in the (insert various assets here) I need to launch at the scale necessary to fulfill my dream...I can't make a living...without the money." Every one of them is thinking it. 

So, they generally don't like what I have to tell them. They can only see me as an obstacle at this point, a naysayer, they think I can't or won't help them.

The entrepreneur with the big idea and who is frustrated with the messenger who wants to help them by telling them the truth doesn't recognize that I agonize with them and what they will go through. They don't know that I've started at least five businesses that didn't quite crest the hill. They have no idea that I've never made a fortune mostly because I've gotten caught up in the way they are thinking right now. I too, want to turn my big idea, my dream, into a living.  

They can't see that although I, too, am struggling, I will not give up (I will quit tomorrow)because I believe in the idea at the very core even if proving the value-proposition is obscured by the human desire to have everything easy. The people who are frustrated by what I'm telling them can't understand that by volunteering to help them make their dream a reality, I'm giving out of need.

About Those Who Don't Make Their Dream Come True

Heuristically speaking, less than 5% of the people I help as a volunteer and in my own business really follow-through. You could look at that seemingly pitiful statistic and ask, "What does that say about you, Tom?" 

It actually says less than me than it does about the other 95%, or more, who give up because getting what they think they want isn't easy. What does it say about the larger frustration they feel from a life's dream untested, unproven, contained and unshared? I agonize for them. I've been there.

The truth is, nothing feels more like success than being willing to help meet someone's need...and actually doing what it takes to try.

Ask The Best Questions, Get the Best Answers

The other day, I got a request from an entrepreneur who asked me, "How can I know my idea will be profitable?"

"You're only asking half of the big question." She was assuming her idea meets a need her target market recognizes it can fill. I told her the best question for her to ask right now is: 

How can I know if my idea is marketable and profitable?

Then, she showed me that she just might be a member of the tenacious "less than 5%" who are willing to do what it takes. She asked, "How can I know if my idea is marketable and profitable?"

I'm so glad she asked!

Dare to Dream...Dare to Do

The answer is deceptively simple. I say deceptively because I can provide it in a short, six-word sentence, "You try it and find out," yet translating that direction into the right combination of actions is what separates the dreamers from the willing "less than 5%".

Everything is an experiment. 

That's right, everything we need to know about finding success we learned in 8th Grade Science. The Scientific Method.

I helped this entrepreneur find the path to the answers to her specific question by showing her how to apply the Scientific Method to her idea and situation. And, I did it by asking her a bunch of questions and challenged her to answer them:

1) Ask the Question: How can I know if (insert idea here) is marketable and profitable?

2) Do the Research: Find the answers to these questions (Note: This list of questions is not all-inclusive):
  • Who does the idea serve?
  • Who is willing to try it (target customer)?
  • What is your idea (product/service)?
  • What need does it meet?
    • Why do you think it will meet this need?
    • Why do the willing Who's think it will meet their need?
  • What resources do you need to try it?
    • People/Skills?
    • Materials
    • Tools?
    • Equipment?
    • Facility?
    • Time?
    • Other?
  • How will you deliver your idea (product/service) to the willing Who's?
  • When can and will you coordinate the Who's and the What's to test your hypothesis (date/time)?
    • Are there lead times?
    • Are there schedules to deconflict?
  • Where will you test your idea?
3) Develop a Hypothesis: It should look something like this.

I believe (insert idea here) will do (insert need the idea will meet here) for (insert the willing who here) when I provide them with (insert the appropriate what's here) by (insert the how's here) on (insert when here) at (insert where here).

4) Test your Hypothesis: Do it! Execute the What for the Who, When, Where and How you said you would. Why? Because your idea is really about helping someone in a way only you can...your dream can never come true if you don't try.

5) Analyze your Results: Answer these questions.
  • Check for Marketability:
    • Do you think the idea (product/service) met your customer's need?
      • If No, why not and what can you do differently to make it so? Go back to Step 2. The real failure, right now would be for you to give up, the results you got are just data.
      • If Yes, think about what could have made it better for you in terms of Who, What, When, Where, and How then go to the next question.
    • Does your customer think the idea met the need they expected it to?
      • If No, why not and what can you do differently to make is so? Or, did it meet a different, unexpected need in a way you should pursue instead? In either case, go back to Step 2. Remember...the results are only providing you with information that will help you make different decisions. Different decisions will probably lead to different results.
      • If Yes, find out what could have made it better for them, in terms of WhoWhatWhenWhere, and How then go to the next analysis step.
  • Check for Profitability:
    • How much did the test cost?
      • Direct Costs
        • People/Skills X Time?
        • Materials?
      • Indirect Costs
        • Tools?
        • Equipment?
        • Facility?
        • Other?
    • How much would it cost to repeat the test continuously?
      • (Direct Costs) X ((# of repetitions/Period) + (Indirect Costs/Period)) = Costs/Period
        • Are there any additional indirect costs to consider that weren't necessary to run the test but would be if you operated continuously (licenses, leases, purchases, etc.)?
    • How much revenue did you generate when you tested your idea?
      • Revenue/Repetition
        • Do you  need to make any adjustments to your pricing model? 
    • How much revenue would you generate if you repeated the test continuously?
      • (Revenue/Repetition) x (Repetitions/Period)
    • Does the data indicate it can be profitable?
      • (Revenue/Period) - (Costs/Period) = Profit
        • If equal to or more than $0.01, then Yes. Repeat. Learn. Improve. 
        • If less than $0.01, then No. Go back to Step 2. Refine the idea and try again. What conditions do you need to change within your test, or the idea itself, to change the data in your favor with the next results?

The Truth About the Dream

When my SCORE client thanked me for asking those questions about her idea in the form of the Scientific Method she said, "It has given me a track to run on."

What she does next...and after that...and after that...will determine if she is one of the "less than 5%". I hope she is. I'm willing to help her.

You will notice there is no reference in the experiment to foundations, investors, or banks. It is focused only on the idea and how to answer the best question to ask about it, "Will the idea be marketable and profitable?" That's what she's focused on right now. She's not distracted by ethereal grants, investment dollars, or bank loans. She's doing her thing!

No one can answer the best question about your idea until it is tested. It's your idea. Test it! Find the answers to your question by doing. Avoid the distractions. Provide a solution. Don't rely on anyone else (foundations, investors, banks, etc.) to make your dream to find success come true and get what you really want. 

Find the willing and give out of need. Become one of the "less than 5%" who dares to dream of finding success...and then actually brings something new and special into the world. 


Ready to run your own experiment?



Tell me what you think:

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  • Do you agree that everything is an experiment and that we use the Scientific Method every day? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree that failure is actually giving up on the idea and the dream...that the results provide the data you need to keep making decisions and doing what it takes? Why or why not?