Monday, May 17, 2010

I Triple Dog Dare You to Start a Business without Asking Yourself These Fifteen Questions

“I love to cook. And people really seem to enjoy my food. Maybe I should open my own restaurant!”

Not so fast, Rachel Ray.

Before you take out a loan and start scouting locations for your hot new Sautéed Squirrel on a Stick Bar & Grill, a few issues need to be addressed.

Consider asking these fifteen questions to help put a foundation under your fantasy:

1. Is your dream passionate, but irrelevant and unbuyable? Be careful not to waste your time on something no customer is asking for. Or, worse yet, waste your energy on customers who don’t even appreciate or deserve your dream in the first place.

Inherently interesting doesn’t necessarily mean easy to sell.

2. Are there at least ten other people out there who are successfully making money from a passion similar to yours? It’s close-minded and shortsighted to assume that your amazing idea is the first of its kind. Don’t let your ego mistake originality with practicality.

In fact, a stronger reason for concern is if Google says that nobody else is making a living doing what you want to do. Eeks. That screams red flag to me.

3. If you did end up making a business out of your passion, how long before you start to feel robbed of your true talent because you’re wasting most of your time and energy on menial, soul-sucking activities that have nothing to do with your passion? This scenario sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually quite common. The thrill of the passion dissipates once it becomes a daily task. Then, as entrepreneurs watch their dream become a chore, it absolutely crushes them. What used to bring purpose, meaning and mattering to their lives now does nothing but induce stomach ulcers.

Make sure your passion is a sustainable, scalable entity.

4. What price are you willing to pay to make this dream into a reality? Undress your stock alibis and stale excuses. Consider the biggest thing you’re willing to give up (or the lowest you’re willing to sink) to get what you want. This will teach you to invest in your threshold level of commitment, not your standard-issue line of bullshit.

Whether that means canceling your cable, waking up an hour earlier or discontinuing time spent with negative people who bring your average down – somewhere, something, (or someone), has to be deleted.

5. Do you go three-for-three? Plug your dream into the following equations: If your idea is intrinsically appealing, but something you suck at, you lose. If your idea is sellable, but something you would hate doing for thirteen hours a day, you lose. Finally, if your idea is your passion, but doesn’t have a viable market, you lose.

Hopefully your dream satisfies all three criteria.

6. Are you willing to work hard, smart and long? That’s the minimum requirement for successfully converting your big idea into big profts. As I learned when I started my publishing/consulting company in 2002, “If you don’t plan on treating it like a business, don’t bother.”

Remember: Turning your dream into a moneymaking reality will be the single hardest endeavor of your life. Unless you have teenage girls. Make that the second hardest.

7. Will this become a legitimate business or just an expensive hobby? George Carlin once said, “I don’t have hobbies – hobbies cost money. I have interests.” Not that there’s anything wrong with having hobbies. But there is something wrong with deluding yourself into believing people will buy something just because your husband likes it. Family members don’t count as focus groups.

Revenue is the aftershock of usefulness. If you want to make money, make something that solves people’s expensive, urgent, pervasive and relevant problems.

8. To what extent are you willing to compromise yourself? There’s also nothing wrong with giving in a little. Bending. Selling out, ever so slightly. But breaking? No way, Jose. That’s a violation of your integrity. I learned this during Dave Chappelle’s interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio. He told James Lipton:

"The first thing you do is figure out the highest price you’re willing to pay. That way, the moment someone asks you to pay more, get the hell out.” It simply depends on what you’re willing to put it all on the line for.

9. Can you handle people hating you? Sorry. It comes with the territory. Do what you love and the hatred will follow. Namely from jealous people who resent you for doing what you love because it threatens their sense of self. Now, if you have a hard time being viewed that way, I totally respect that.

Which means you have two options: Get used to it, or get out now. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are as real as a heart attack, but require more oxygen to handle. Arm yourself. Your breath is your bodyguard.

10. Are you willing to give up (some) control of your idea in exchange for being able to let grow and expand it better and faster? Not that you have to outsource your entire operation to India. But surrendering a certain amount of control enables people (fans, customers, members, whoever) to take your idea into their own hands.

And by openly embracing a “fan” mentality and transferring ownership to the user, spreadability becomes long-term viability. Remember: Vulnerable is the new safe. Imperfect is the new beautiful. Recognize the fact that your customers are in control. They decide how much attention they choose to give to you.

11. Are you willing to describe your dream in detail, put it on paper and tell others about it publicly? Otherwise the dream isn’t real. There’s no ownership. You haven’t committed with both feet. Not that you have to have a “plan.”

Rather, you have to engage, share and stand by your why. Your vision. Your mission. Failure to communicate that is a diamond studded path to doubt, which will lead to the eventual demise of your dream.

12. How long will it take the market to recognize your trustworthiness and reward you with new business – and are you willing (and able) to wait that long? “You won’t make any money for five years.” I read that statement in a book by Donald Trump when I wad 22. Scared the crap out of me.

So, although I turned my dream into a business in 2002 – my company didn’t turn a profit until late 2005. And I worked harder than anybody, damn it! I even held a part time job crashing parking cars nights and weekends. Lesson learned: Expecting profit immediately will disappoint and deflate your spirit. If you plan to put all your eggs in one basket, don’t just guard that basket with your life – also make sure the savages with frying pans and eggbeaters stay away.

13. Is success probable or possible? Notwithstanding any major violations of the laws of thermodynamics, (almost) anything is possible. Probable, on the other hand, is a completely different ballgame. Your challenge is to honestly assess which category your dream falls under.

For example, starting your own marketing consultancy is definitely possible. Specializing in a prosaic form of advertising like Yellow Pages isn’t very probable. See the difference?

14. Will you be the best? Here’s the reality: Nobody notices normal, nobody buys boring and nobody pays average. Marketplaces reward the exceptional and ignore the rest. Especially in the midst of infinite choices. So, if you don’t plan to build remarkability into your product from the get-go, don’t even bother.

After all, why spend all your time, money and energy just to wind up being another non-entity in the infinite mass of blah blah blah? Instead, wage a war against mediocrity and you will win big.

15. What purpose underscores your passion? If you’re trying to make real money, passion without purpose is pointless and leaves you penniless. Without a strong why, your passion is nothing but blazing fire that burns you and everyone you touch. Keep in mind: The word “passion” comes from the Latin passio, which means, “to suffer.”

Ask yourself, “What are you willing to suffer for?” and, more importantly, “What would cause you suffering if you did not do it?” The answers to those questions represent the intersection of passion and purpose.

REMEMBER: As delicious as Sautéed Squirrel on a Stick sounds, maybe it’s time to take an more honest look at your dream.

If you want to make real money, ask these questions to install a foundation under your fantasy.

After all, I’d hate for you to strike a passionate pose that nobody notices.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Have you asked yourself the difficult questions about your business?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

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