The Ramblings
of a Serial

How To Solve The 3 Biggest Problems For Startups

I’ve been starting businesses for over 25 years.

Since my first crappy failed business to doing $440M in sales, I found a path around the biggest startup problems. They’re actually easier than you think. You just need to change how you think about them.

Here they are, and how to solve them:

PROBLEM #1: You think you know

Starting a business is a huge undertaking. You’re willing something into existence. Before there was nothing, and through tenacity you make it real. You grow it. But that becomes the problem.

You think you know what the business is. And you don’t.

The business is what the market says it is. You might want to sell something, but if they aren’t buying, no company. Don’t give me the Henry Ford “If I did what people wanted, I’d make a faster horse carriage.” 99.999% of us aren’t Ford, Jobs, Bezos or Musk.

The faster you realize you don’t know, and running tests to see what works, the faster you’ll succeed. (I run super cheap $50 tests and get this data in a couple of days, that’s a subject for a different day)

Even years down the line you’ll face this. New products, new offers, new markets.

You’re in your own head, and in your own way. Test and listen to the market and you’ll be way ahead.

PROBLEM #2: You’re thinking too big, too soon

Ever done the “presumed success math?” Where you calculate if you just get X customers, you’ll have an 8-figure cash cow? Ever think to yourself “I better set this up for when I scale?” We all do it.

Figures dancing in our heads, we start to make business decisions assuming we’ll succeed. But those aren’t the things that will get us there.

Your success math doesn’t account for complexity of the business compressing your margins as you scale. The systems you make “scale ready” today will be thrown out because they didn’t survive contact with reality.

I’m a big fan of planning and process – but you’re probably over-building. You’re probably thinking too much. There’s a time and place for that (see Problem #3), but we confuse dreaming with thinking big.

It’s OK to be held together with duct tape until you have real liftoff. You’ll know when it happens. You’ll feel it.

But if you don’t feel it, that’s because of –

PROBLEM #3: You’re doing random shit

You put in the hours, why isn’t the business making progress? Because doing things doesn’t matter. Doing the right things matter.

I’ll bet 80% of your week is spent on things that don’t need to be done. At all. That blog article you’re working on for your startup? Pretty much nobody will read it. Running down some cool new software you saw that might help your sales process? Configuring it will take longer than using Google Sheets, and it won’t work how you expected. Answering emails? Congrats, you’re working on a to-do list of shit other people sent you.

Bottom line: unless you’re ruthlessly prioritizing the one thing that matters, you’re wasting time. Find the One Metric That Matters now, and do the one activity that moves it forward. Dump everything else.

This is especially powerful when you combine it with the testing solution to Problem #1: rapidly test solutions for your OMTM. You’ll move faster than you ever believed possible.

See? That wasn’t so hard.

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