“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road: not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha
I could fill this month’s column with wise words about getting started, but you already know that taking the first step is the most difficult moment in an entrepreneurial journey. That leap is downright scary. And it should be.
At NACET, it’s one of the most crucial and common questions we’re asked: “How do I get started?” The answer is simple. You just start. You get the idea out of your head and into reality. You start to answer the questions that race through your mind at night.
Here are three inexpensive, practical and valuable ways you can get the proverbial ball rolling.
Set up meetings. Yes, just meetings (with a purpose). It’s simple, but incredibly powerful.
Go out and talk to at least 100 people about the problem you’re trying to solve or the concept you have in mind. Get out of your inner circle. Set up meetings with people you’ve never met. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to call someone, introduce yourself, and say, “I have an idea or problem and I’d love your input. Can I buy you coffee?”
Every single entrepreneur has been where you are. The vast majority want to help.
Go into those meetings with your research – about the person and the problem – in hand. Take notes on how they perceive the problem, their current workaround or solution for it, how much they spend (time and money) doing that, and how they feel about it. Get input. Find out what drives your potential customer, colleague or competitor to do what they’re doing.
We regularly meet with technology start-ups and support organizations in Northern Arizona, statewide and even in Silicon Valley. We do exactly what I’m suggesting you do. We make cold calls, we set up meetings and we discover invaluable information about the future of our services. We leave every one of those meetings inspired and with a clear sense of direction. I know you will, too.
For some, the best first step is to simply make something.
If your concept is a product, make a model of it, even if it’s primitive. Create a first draft, a mock-up, a prototype, one tiny piece of the whole. Then let people look, touch, tinker and ask questions. Literally let your idea take shape.
Look for do-it-yourself niche groups to see who is doing what to solve this problem or to fill a product void. Good, specifically-worded Internet searches will uncover a niche group for almost anything.
If you don’t have the technical skills to make a prototype, write a one-page description of what you need and call it Version 0.1. Set up meetings with your friends and colleagues and find someone with the skills to help you move to a 3D format. Offer to pay, and if you find someone who gets as excited as you are about it, congratulations, you may have a co-founder!
Finally, the third first-step option is to get started on paper.
Write down the basic version of what you want to accomplish. Write the first paragraph of your future website or the opening three lines of your elevator speech. Write down what you want to do/make/offer that your customers will consider valuable.
For example, if you want to build a gadget that will eventually do 10 things, what one of those things is most valuable to your potential customers?
Just write it down.
At NACET, we guide entrepreneurs through the steps of success – including that scary first step. It’s why our clients have a success rate that is twice the national average.
Give us a call. We’d love to help. FBN
Written by NACET President and CEO Annette Zinky. firstname.lastname@example.org / 928.213.9234