DanMaycock.com

Data, Strategy, Leadership, and Innovation

Month: January 2014

10 Steps to Turning your Idea into a Business

“Your billion dollar company starts with a million dollar product, and your million dollar product starts with a hundred dollar prototype.” – Spark.io Team (http://bit.ly/1e1xkuk)

I think there’s alot of great ideas out there in the world that never get off the drawing board because X gets in the way of Y. Whether it’s finances getting in the way of the prototype, or work commitments getting in the way of reading that book you need to research the topic you want to improve, there’s a world of things getting in the way.

I encourage you to take these 4 steps in mind, and accept that in the time it takes you to read this note, you have the time to take your idea and get it to the next step which you can then justify putting some time and effort behind. For what you’re already paying for (a computer, internet connection, chair) you have all the tools you need to create something great.

Step 1. Open up a word document and describe in 3-500 words write down the problem you think needs to get fixed, and potentially your idea to fixing it.

Step 2. Post that idea online, on a social network, and get people’s feedback on what they think of the idea.

Step 3. Accept your idea in it’s present form isn’t A) the last idea you’ll come up with and B) not the final form it needs to be in.

Step 4. Take that feedback, noodle on it, refine it, and write 500-1000 words on the idea

Step 5. Do research online to see what exists out there already to solve this problem, and how your product might be different

Step 6. Figure out what it takes to bring this product / service to market for as little money as possible. You’d be surprised how much is already out there for little to no money to help bring your product to market.

Step 7. Build a support team that’ll encourage and keep you accountable to bringing this to life. Keep in mind it’ll change 100 times, and ideas are plentiful so don’t worry if you feel like you need a new one.

Step 8. Take the first step in your research plan, fail, learn from that failure, try and try again.

Step 9. Get encouragement, get feedback, get more encouragement

Step 10. Never, never, never give up and keep trying to solve the problem without holding the solution too closely. That solution can look 100’s of different ways, but you only need one solution for the problem.

The risk you’ll face is falling too much in love with a single solution, and spend too much money trying to make it work. If it’ll solve the problem, the product / service will sell to people that need help, so it’s about awareness and feedback to keep making it better – both can be cheap, but will take time so get encouragement to keep working on the right combination of solutions and awareness.

You need money to scale, and help grow exposure, but prototypes and trials are cheap and t-shirts are a nice to have, not a need to have so don’t worry about the thickness of your business cards when you haven’t yet sold your answer to the problem.

An important note on Patents – They are great in theory, but once that idea goes public then it’s an easy step for a larger company to change the idea just slightly and avoid infringement, so make sure you can quickly get funding for the legal support you’ll need to enforce that patent, or keep it un-patented until you’re getting enough exposure and success that you know you’re on the right track with the idea as is. It can take 7+ years to get the patent filed, so focus first on getting the concept to market so you can prove the interest, get the investment, and grow the company while getting advice on when to pull the patent trigger.

A note on Advisors – it’s important to find 3-5 people that have been where you’ve been at before, can help you get to where you want to go, or help steer your idea in the right direction. Start by meeting with professors or community college teachers, that are teaching classes on the subject you’re researching. You can reach out to professionals as well, such as lawyers or financial advisors, and get some simple advise for free but consider bringing them on as advisors in exchange for a small piece of ownership if they’re on board for that. Don’t get too many advisors though, and don’t give away too much of your company or you’ll run into real problems when you have investors getting involved.

 

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The Ugly Side of Subscriptions

I was recently re-subscribed to a newspaper, which I didn’t notice until checking my credit card statement and seeing a sizable renewal fee (not the cheapest newspaper to sign up for yearly access to). The thing was that they tried to get a hold of me at an e-mail address I no longer have access to, to confirm I wanted to resubscribe. I of course didn’t get the e-mail, so they assumed that was a yes, and now I’m going back and forth saying it was something my old company paid for, for a specific reason that’s no longer relevant.

They essentially informed me that they couldn’t cancel my subscription, and I’d have to wait to next year to cancel. Having experience being trapped at a gym in a simliar set of circumstances, I contacted the credit card company and am now working through the situation with them around mitigating this auto-renewal train wreck. What it’s highlighted for me though, is that there are companies in the world that still think it’s ok to trap their customers into contracts. Though they did offer to reduce it by 10%, it was not about the price (I’d gladly pay for it if I used it) but that they took advantage of a check box I didn’t uncheck last year, and an e-mail I didn’t get, to say I gave my indirect approval to get charged for another year.

Though I’m not a customer today, there’s a chance I would be in the future or that I’d come in contact with other people using the service, and this just sours me on ever wanting to deal with them again. I know though, this newspaper isn’t something individuals subscribe to and that it’s something that companies subscribe to for their executives & financial analysts. Regardless, when is it ok to trap someone in an agreement they had unintentionally consented to? Is it ever ok to cause someone to feel trapped into an agreement, you didn’t readily create an opportunity to opt out of? Yea, they might get my fee for the year, but I’m not all that inclined to recommend them to folks in the future, and is it really worth one subscription fee for a year to get that?

It’s the ugly side of subscriptions, and I get why they make it hard to quit, but this model comes to a head at some point where consumers have other options and decide to either use free resources or go month to month with no strings attached.

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Path or the Gear?

There comes a time during your professional life that you need to stand back and get perspective if you’re heading in the right direction. However, how often does that perspective take you in a whole new direction?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that people born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. On average, men held 11.4 jobs and women held 10.7 jobs. 25% percent held 15 jobs or more, while 12% held four jobs or less.

I’m curious in those stats, how many of those people changed jobs because they had to, wanted to, or felt like they should. So often we try to make the right decisions in our professional life’s, and rely on the help of those that have gone before us to help us through the path. The problem is though, that we can often ignore the internal compass we all have inside of us when it comes to someone’s advice that we rely on to act as a guide and mentor.

It means it’s important to find the right mentor, but it’s also important to keep advice at arms length if you don’t have your bearings as to where the path you’re on is taking you. Picking the “right” job may have motivations other than something you care about and are passionate about.

What were you into when you were a kid, when all you had was your internal compass telling you what direction to head in? I often took things apart, figured out how they worked, and put them back together in a new configuration I thought worked better. I chose IT strategy as an outlet for that love, but I could have easily been a mechanic or engineer. The point is that the passion I had to take things apart and put them back together, whether it’s a company or an engine, is present in what I do which is where my internal compass has led me.

It wasn’t obvious though, until I looked back on my life and patterns and detected in the jobs I haven’t enjoyed that there wasn’t a part of what I loved to do as a kid, though it was the “right” job at the time for money, opportunity, or education. Where I’m at now though, I not only find enjoyment and fulfillment in my current job though, but am finding I’m much more successful in achieving my goals than I have been in the past – getting in shape, spending time with my wife, reading books, and focusing on the things that matter in life have always been goals but now that I’m aligned in my purpose and am doing work I care about I’m finding it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning.

Yet, when I think about what this job really has that’s all that great, I’m reminded of those themes in my life that reappear in different manifestations and see where my internal compass has continually reminded me the work I was passionate about. My body literally wouldn’t let me be put up with work I wasn’t cut out for, and things started to break down and no longer work – stress, depression, anxiety – all the cost of doing something I wasn’t cut out for.

I thought mentors would fix me, but when it comes to what I was most passionate about, the only answer I needed was the ones I already had. No one is more of an expert on you, than you – you’re the only one that’s been with you since the beginning.

If you’re unhappy in your professional life, or even if you think you have the perfect job, think about a time when you didn’t have to do anything and about what you chose to spend your time on – what’s your internal compass telling you? It could make all the difference between changing paths in life (entirely new career), vs just changing the gear you’re using along the path you’re already on (new job, same career).

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