All startups should be thinking, “What frustrates me and how can I make it better?” It might be a small thing or it might be a big thing, but that’s the best way for them to think. If they think like that, they’re likely to build a very successful business.~ Richard Branson
Starting a Business is Step One, of course, but after that the assignment switches to Making it Better. Not only does Step Two last longer, it becomes an on-going challenge—and source of creative fun.
Here are some idea starters for days when you feel stumped.
° Every day ask yourself these questions and listen for the answers. Those deceptively simple questions are:
What can I make today?
How can I make it better? (It being anything that is right in front of you.)
How can I amaze myself today?
° Goals aren’t enough. As valuable as formal goal setting is to the process of building a business, it’s not the only tool for growing. A manifesto, a motto and a mantra (or two) will add power to your goal achievements.
A manifesto is your personal statement of why you do what you do. Avoid corporate gobbledygook in writing yours.
A motto and a mantra are similar, but not quite identical. One definition of a motto says, “A maxim adopted as a guide to one’s conduct.”
A mantra, on the other hand, is also a short statement, but may be one that begins with “I am” and includes a reminder of the kind of person you are working to become.
All three of these word tools can strengthen focus and, even, simplify decision-making.
° Put the odds in your favor. According to the National Business Incubation Association, 80-90% of businesses are still operating after 5 years where the founder has received entrepreneurial training and continues with a network group, as compared to a 10% success rate for those who do not receive training.
Be a voluntary student as often as possible.
° Get fussy about your customers and clients. When we’re a new little business, teetering towards success, it may be prudent to take on any and all comers. (Our early customers can be fine teachers, by the way.)
As your business matures, your notion about who you can best serve—and who can be the most joyful for you to work with—may become clearer.
A written statement about your ideal customer can help you weed out the ones who are going to waste your time, be difficult or simply inappropriate.
Having clarity about the folks you want to work with will help you find shortcuts to connecting with them.
° Amuse yourself with another list. As I was browsing through a journal of mine, I came across a list titled Things I Will (Probably) Never Do. Some of the items included wear a baseball cap, eat oysters, play the bagpipe and head a huge corporation.
I realize that there are some dangers in such a list, but they’re minor. While it’s also true that we sometimes surprise and delight ourselves by doing things we’d previously thought were out of reach, this kind of list is designed as an exercise in fun.
Certainly, you can also outgrow your notions about things you’d never do, just as you can outgrow things that you’ve always done.
° Test drive new ideas. Most of us would not dream of spending thousands of dollars for a car that we hadn’t taken for a spin. Our ideas deserve a test drive of their own.
However, the criteria should not be based solely on market response.I learned that lesson in the early days of building my seminar business when I had the willing cooperation of Open U, a fledgling adult ed program, to try out any and all ideas that I had.
Sometimes I discovered that a subject that seemed promising on paper wasn’t all that much fun in the classroom. Sometimes an idea I thought was a small one, turned into a surprising success.
Find your own way of creating a laboratory for running experiments on your ideas. (Just thinking about the pros and cons is not a reliable testing ground.)
° Upgrade when possible. Critics scold Apple for their frequent revisions of popular products. Of course, their most avid fans will repurchase, but this isn’t just a clever marketing ploy.
It’s evidence of an on-going obsession with improvement.
Evolution is your friend, after all, and even the core offerings of your business can be im-proved in both large and small ways. Pay attention when such opportunities reveal themselves.