What is the smallest thing that you can create that you will be able to sell?
This is the often first question I pose to entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs are trapped in the mindset of thinking big. They have already envisioned themselves driving the luxury car, owning the luxury home and cruising the luxury yacht. Before getting there however there is the small obstacle of getting customers to pay for all of that. So where do we start? We start small. Very small. As small as you can possibly imagine. And once we have started doing the first small thing, we move on to the next small thing.
Growth – Step by Step
We like calling this type of thinking, your next step to growth. It is good to think far into the future; that is what ignites your vision, but for now, you need to identify your next small step on the road to that vision.
Many entrepreneurs suffer from burnout on the way to their dream. They have great ambitions of building an empire in a year or two. Reality shows us that this does not happen. It is the entrepreneur that is keenly aware of the detail required in the next step to growth that designs it and carries it out. All the while this same entrepreneur is holding the future in suspense. They want to be there, they want to be there now, but they know it will take time and effort.
Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, the authors of the book, the One Thing, give an example of how when one domino is placed correctly in front of another, its momentum can topple another domino about 1.5 times its size. This means that when you have 13 dominoes in a row it will multiply the smallest domino size by a factor of 2 billion. We call this effect leverage and it is used wisely by many of the best entrepreneurs. Thinking small initially could help you to grow substantially, if you do the right things.
What have you got in your hand?
In the story of David and Goliath, we see a young shepherd boy destroying a giant warrior by using the resources that he had available to him. David was used to a slingshot and he had used it to kill the animals that threatened the flock he protected. David never intended to fight Goliath in hand to hand combat. He was planning to fight Goliath with the resources he was used to, with a rock and a slingshot (read more about this in David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell).
There are many entrepreneurs who are trapped in the Goliath mind-set. They assume that they require substantial resources to accomplish something. This is simply not true. The winning entrepreneurs are those who understand the vision and can break down the long journey ahead by thinking through the next few steps in the journey. They start from the point where they are now, with what they have available now, and build from there.
The Minimum Viable Product
Another name for the smallest thing that you can build that tests value is called a minimum viable product. This lean start-up term encourages entrepreneurs to think small rather than big. It is better to spend time discussing the iterations to your product or service with a customer, than it is being stuck in building something that no-one wants.
Des Traynor, the Co-founder of Intercom has a saying that goes: “Think in cupcakes, not wedding cakes”. Too many entrepreneurial companies have run out of cash and time while trying to bake the perfect wedding cake, while all the customer wanted was a cupcake. When you think about your start up strategy, start thinking in cupcakes, and sacrifice the wedding cake.