10 Ways to Get Started with a New Business

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Here’s a bunch of thoughts on getting started in a new venture. I think they could help somebody start something. Especially in the lifestyle business blogosphere, where we are gathering around a set of generally shared principles, we are much more confident about our idea to start a business than our idea for a business. This is true for beginners, novices (that’s me!), and the #balla #ballas. If you are looking to do the next thing in your life or business, maybe some of these thoughts can help…

  1. Put yourself on a 5 year plan. You might pop something big, but you probably won’t. Taking the entrepreneur’s path is more of a sacrifice than most people assume. If you can find a way to love the work, and not just be driven by a desire for the lifestyle, you have already succeeded. Imagine the overworked person who is struggling to “find the time” to build passive income streams after work. Now, on the other, consider the person who considers it a privilege. For that person, any moment of the day they can find to work on their business is a gift. Your business can become a gift to you. I also think having a 5 year outlook can be a great mental hack against the enormity of what you are facing. It can be difficult to imagine your desired outcomes as plausible. Five years is plenty of time to make the huge changes, and allows you to focus more on enjoying the process rather than constantly being bummed out that you aren’t seeing the results you want RIGHT NOW!!!
  2. Feast on some humble pie. It’s incredible how selfish people can be when it comes to business stuff. The kind of business you want to start is about GIVING value. You need to GIVE more than you ASK. Always and forever, unless you are some clever sharkey trader or something (if you are, call me!). 9 times out of 10, entrepreneur who demands their blog, their product, their whatever, be 100% they way they want it to be, even if nobody likes it, is using their “drive” or “vision” as an excuse for inaction. It’s a defense mechanism that we all use to avoid facing real results. 1 time out of 10, this attitude indicates genius.
  3. Start a Video TV show that delivers entertaining, expert information regarding high dollar products and services. Have a point of view. Have a fast pace. Keep your production costs low. The key to good content is selling it every step of the way. Implicit in every moment (or word if you are writing) is that you’re gonna need to read the next one…
  4. Go get a job. If you are working in a corporate job with people that don’t share your future aspirations, you are  behind the ball. Start tracing success stories and you’ll find, without fail, that people who have had huge success have been on those trajectories for a significant amount of time. That’s why 5 year thinking comes in handy. I often ask myself “what is my trajectory here.” As with anything that builds momentum, the longer you stay on a trajectory you don’t like the harder it will be to change, and the more opportunity you’ll have where you are at. I can see this in my own life for sure. The amount of opportunities I’m exposed to is a real shock to me. (This is a whole other interesting topic, but it’s really important to remember what you want out of this stuff once things start getting hot.) If you want to start a business, go work for a start-up. If you don’t like your job, quit it. Find a better one. Entrepreneurs value their time over all else. Start demanding that how you spend your time is meaningful– either to you, your team, your company, your purpose, whatever. Don’t phone it in.
  5. Start a team. If you can’t get other people to work with you, believe in your mission, or if you can’t afford to hire anyone, take that as a sign that you need to pivot or re-evaluate what you are up to. Do something that requires others. If it’s true that most successful enterprises have more than one person involved, then getting other people on board now has the potential to jump start your progress. (Pro tip: “VA’s, or overseas employees don’t mean you do less work, they mean you do more). In fact, this “first sale” can often be your most important. It certainly was for me, as my team members have defined my enterprise more than my largest customers.
  6. Launch a podcast. iTunes has recently given preference to new podcasts that launch with a little bit of steam in their “new and notable section.” In order to take advantage of this, you’ll need a quality podcast graphic (just look at the competition in the “new and notable sections”) and a little boost in subscribers when you launch. See if you can get somebody with a decent list to mail for you, plus get everyone in your network to subscribe to the iTunes RSS feed. I haven’t heard from anyone directly, but my sense is you can get a nice boost in subscribers through this one channel alone. Consider how important content is becoming to commerce. Amazon isn’t only where you buy stuff– it’s where you go to learn about stuff. Think on that! 4 years ago I built a cat furniture business. Dumb. I should have built a cat furniture audience!
  7. Convince your most industrious, ambitious friend to start a business with you. Or, find an industrious friend. I’ve gone back and forth on the partnership issue. It’s really tough to find good partners for sure. But here’s the thing: I’m almost 100% sure I wouldn’t have this business if it weren’t for my relationship with @AnythingIan. It keeps me focused, motivated, and pumped up to be working together on our projects. Focus on different aspects of the business that you are uniquely suited to focus on. Even Y Combinator strongly suggests you have a partner. I’m starting to agree with this more and more.
  8. Consider the things that you’ve learned from the blogosphere that could be valuable to those with deeper pockets who feel left out of all this crazy opportunity. Many comedians say the funniest jokes are the ones that take the concepts that are very far apart in your brain and connect them. The  same thing is true for deal making. Consider what kind of value you can bring to the table for people who don’t utilize and understand the power of social media. Don’t consult them, cut a deal! Consider this: a BALLA freakin’ villa in Bali is 12K annually, at the most. Outfit the thing with big monitors, good internet, food and house maid and you are probably talking 15K burn. Now make a remarkable plan. We are gonna build x in 6 months with a team of 4. I’m not going to publicly suggest how much you should pay your team members, or interns– it will depend on a lot of factors. Consider producing some of that video content we are talking about. Based on the awesome videos I’ve seen this weekend of people who applied for the TMBA, there are some incredible TV personalities out there looking for a little time in Bali. I bet you could pump out 5 produced shows a day. #Booyah. Somebody tell @Jason. This is not particular to Bali, I’m just thinking of it now. I mean, imagine if some kind of version of ThisWeekIn.com were located there, but focused on a particular vertical of products or services. YOU COULD CRUSH IT.
  9. Offer services that are lazer specific. Treat them like products. For all my hustlers out there doing services (web dev, freelance writing, etc) for a coporation or in a freelance capacity, start a landing page and brand focused on solving a super-specific paint point. “500 word expert articles posted to Ezinearticles.com, on time, every time.” Scale from there. This will allow you to test conversions around a lazer focused offer. “Adwords site audits for independent e-commerce outlets: $297. Opt-in for free training on how to do your own audit, or buy one from my team today and we’ll deliver it in 72hrs!” Your sevice business should be niched out so you can test it and scale it. Stop being a “consultant.”
  10. Understand that nobody can give you the answer. Being an entrepreneur is about articulating, and executing on your own unique vision. It doesn’t need to sound or look good out of the gate– it just needs to be you. As much as we like to draw generalizations, entrepreneurial success is singular. It you haven’t felt this weird feeling yet, don’t worry. It goes away :)

Hope your week is getting off to a great start. If you’ve got some ideas for me, I’m all ears!

Cheers!

Dan

@TropicalMBA

Published on 02.28.11
  • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

    Hey Dan,

    what a kick-ass post.
    I especially like “Start a team” and be lazer-focused. I’m from Germany, but nowadays, it doesn’t really matter where you live – you can build joint ventures from around anywhere !
    Once I expand, I want to have VA’s and colaborate with international people on a cool project I want to bring into life.
    And the other thing: I have never been super-focused, especially not when it comes to offering services. It’s interesting what you say – why do you prefer being SUPER-specific opposed to being “just” specific (but more general than super!).
    Don’t you think the target market will be too small ??

  • http://www.andrewcaldwell.info/ Andrew Caldwell

    Numero 4 – too true, everyone in cubicle land at work thinks it’s a crazy idea to want to escape from here!

    Need to surround myself with some other crazies to hatch the escape plan.

    Looking forward to a post about cat furniture now though Dan.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Mars thanks for that. I love the flexibility of being able to collaborate quickly and cheaply worldwide. I’m building my business on that capability. Too much fun :)

    I think if you are super focused your customer acquisition costs are cheaper. It’s more expensive to sell “marketing consulting services” than it is to sell “adwords campaign audits.” A super specific service can also be ‘productizable’ easier. So whereas marketing consulting services don’t scale well, an adwords audit procedure can be easily handled by employees or duplicated in a software application.

    Exceptions to my ramblings abound :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thank you Andrew. Dude I thought making cat furniture was a bitch, now you are gonna make me write about it!? :)

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