Take a flying leap with your business
Updated: May 7, 2018
Christopher O'Byrne stood on the edge of the cliff, he looked down, considered jumping and then stepped back.
He repeated the process over and over.
He would walk away and then walk back.
His mind told him to jump but his body just wouldn't do it. Christopher knew he couldn't take the internal dialogue any more, or the taunts from the onlookers, his time was running out. He had prepared everything and yet he was hesitating. What was going on?
This week I met with a couple of entrepreneurs who are standing on their own cliff.
They have a business that has been running for over a decade and would be considered marginally profitable.
They want to take it to the next level. They know that if they want to get investors they need more revenue, more customers and new streams of income. As we all know, investors want to see that they are going to be able to get their money back and then some. Without proven products or service revenue streams, ventures are simply too risky for all but a select few, who then demand most of the company in return for capital.
The entrepreneurs I met have identified who their target markets are, and what they have to offer.
They have invested money and time into building their product and they are hesitating.
It is almost as if they keep walking to the edge of the cliff, looking over and then walking back. It's like they have too many options and they don't know where to jump off.
This is a common problem with many business owners. We often build something that we think the market needs, and put much time and effort into making sure it's just right. We construct the perfect solution to our customer's problems and the perfect way to take our business to another level. Once that is done we step back and wait for things to happen. The reality is that we are not finished, we have just started, because nothing happens without action. We need to jump right in!
Get in the market
In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries writes about exactly this problem. His message is that going to the marketplace earlier, instead of later to prove the feasibility of our products and service, increases our chances of success. Instead of waiting for our product offering to be perfect we need to take our mvp - minimum viable product - out to prospective customers to see if we can sell it.
Not only does this enable us to test our theory, our products and our services, but it also provides feedback and more importantly, cash from customers coming into the business.
Many businesses become cash strapped because they don't go to the marketplace early enough or often enough for feedback and sales. They are on the edge of the cliff, but they are waiting to make everything just perfect before they jump in. Without real customer feedback we can't verify that we are on the right track. Without cash we have a hard time justifying that we need to invest more in the project. But how exactly do we get the cash?
It's simple enough. When I was going through my training to become a business coach, Jon Denny of the PBCA told me to make my list of prospective clients. Then Jon said, "Dave you have to get on the phone and start making calls." This is the hardest part for most business people. To make things happen, we have to "Just do it" - take the plunge, jump off the cliff. We will get burned a few times.
We will make mistakes. We will get shut down. And that is hard. But unless we get out there and try to sell our products or services, how will we know if we are on the right track?
When we need cash in our business, we need to get off our butts, get on the phone, and start doing the work that really matters.
If we are serious about making a go out of our business we need to go out and get the sales. We need to put serious resources and time into talking to prospects and closing deals. Yes, we need to cheer each sale we get, but we can't stop until we do what we have said we will do, until we have hit our targets.
With his knees shaking, Christopher stepped off the cliff and fell down, down, down into the cool crisp water of Horseshoe Lake in Jasper National Park. Christopher went on to use that experience as the theme for his award winning toastmaster's talk.
The entrepreneurs I met, will need to jump sooner than later too. I know they will be successful if they step up and leap off their cliff and start putting a serious effort into selling their products and services. Selling always takes us out of our comfort zone, but the thrill we experience when customers see value in what we do and are willing to pay for that value is well worth it.