Lessons from “The Minimalist Entrepreneur – How Great Founders Do More With Less.” By Sahil Lavingia
Don’t let self-doubt set in; build as little as possible.
Writers are told, “Write what you know” for entrepreneurs it’s not quite that simple. When you are starting a business you are imaging something that has not been done before, or at least not in the way you are contemplating your business vision. This applies even if you are considering a consulting or coaching business, there may be many similar businesses out there, but yours will be unique because you will bring your skill sets and unique personality to the table. Unfortunately, this is when many aspiring solopreneurs decide that building a business is not for them. Although they have the passion, they let self-doubt set in. They convince themselves they do not have the hard skills they need to be successful. Let me tell you a secret, every entrepreneur has doubts that their business with be successful. Even the most successful were not sure of success when they launched. Jeff Bezos of Amazon told his investors he thought that Amazon had about a 30% chance of succeeding.
You do not need a team, money or degree to start building your business. Remember you do not learn and then start; you start and then you learn.
Sahil Lavingia suggests you start with process. He says every big idea was small once. As you start your selling cycle with your first customer, document each step of the process, so that with every consecutive customer you have a play book upon which you can build and improve. Sahil calls this your true MVP of your business. Here MVP does not mean your minimum viable product which every solopreneur is trying to build and launch. In this context MVP means Manual Valuable Process. By recording the steps you take to complete each sale you will be able to figure out what is working and what is not.
This helps avoid a common mistake of going straight from problem to product without taking the time to learn exactly what needs to be built and how. Did your solution solve the customers problem? Completely? Partially? Or not at all? You need to be able to solve your customers problems reasonably well before you scale up. If it worked great, if it didn’t then you need to think of another idea.
Develop a feedback loop, talk to your customers, what did they like about your offering? What did they not like? Critically examine your offering. The fastest feedback loop is with yourself.
Even after you have made some sales you still may not be totally sure how to tackle the problems you have chosen to solve for your community so consider starting as a freelancer or as a side gig. Although selling your time does not scale well, freelancing can bring in some income as you refine your product offering.
I always encourage my clients not to start with hourly pricing, or if they do start that way, to quickly move on to a pricing model that can scale.
The foundations to building your business. There are some basic essential steps you need to take when building your business.
You need a name. Before you can tell anyone about your product, you need a name. Savil favors names that take two words and combine them. These are easy to remember and pass the radio test, if someone hears your business name on the radio can they find in through Google? Companies such as Facebook, Dropbox or Gumroad follow this advice. My own business 3 Continents Consulting does not exactly trip of the tongue like Facebook, so I decided to test the theory. And yes if you type three continents consulting into Google you will find me. Interestingly this works whether you use the numeric 3 or the word three. Also, the subtitle of my business Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems will locate me thanks to IBGR and my podcasts. So honestly your name does not matter that much if you work on getting it out there. And of course, once you achieve success any name will feel right.
Build a website and get yourself an e-mail address. This does not need to cost a fortune. We are minimalist entrepreneurs after all. I have no coding skills whatever, but I have built two websites using WordPress. And one of them even ranks number 1 on Google, if a dentist looking for a CFO types “CFO for Dentist” into a search engine they will see my website first. Do get yourself a professional e-mail address. Again, this is not expensive, buy a domain name and set up an email account. I believe that a professional email account is important but if you disagree see if you can find a professional looking name using a free account. For example, my personal fee account is firstname.lastname@example.org which does not look too bad. But a tip, as you are researching your business ideas and want to download free eBooks for example some providers do require a business e-mail. They will not accept live.com or Gmail as examples.
Create social media accounts where your potential customers hang out. I will discuss this more next week when I talk about marketing your business.
Finally make it easy for your customers to pay you. Consider an account with Square or Stripe that will enable you to accept credit card payments. These are fee but charge a small percentage of every transaction plus a transaction fee of a few cents.
Optionally consider setting up a legal entity for your business. I recently won some business with a UK based multinational corporation and one of the questions they asked before awarding me the contract was whether I had a legal entity. Fortunately, I had set up my legal entity when I launched. Although at the time it was primarily for tax reasons.
Refine your manual valuable process before building your minimum viable product
The faster the feedback loop you have with your customers, the faster you will get to the solution they are willing to pay for.
Build as little as possible at the lowest cost possible.
Remember you do not have to know everything about what you are doing when you launch. Many people change their business models as they learn more about the market they are serving.
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