The process of starting a new business is a little bit scary, sometimes overwhelming… and often incredibly exciting! And it’s easy to get caught up in that excitement; to run out and register your domain name, print business cards, and start working on your elevator speech.
All of which are excellent things to have… when you’re ready for them.
But when you’re taking those first steps towards entrepreneurship, there’s one crucial step you want to be very careful you don’t overlook. Unfortunately, it’s a step most people do overlook, much to their regret.
Traveling to Paradise?
Buzzing with anticipation, you pack all your things, grab some tunes for the trail, and head out the door.Imagine, for a moment, that you’re about to embark on a trip. It’s a hiking trip, one which will take you through the wilderness and into paradise. You’re so excited, you can hardly wait to get there!
At first, you’re bouncing with energy; singing along with the music, enjoying the scenery, and thrilling to the freedom of being out on your own. But after a while, you start to get a little worried. Your stomach feels tight, and the music begins to grate on your nerves.
Suddenly, you realize you aren’t sure you’re going the right way. You’ve been walking for hours, and nothing looks quite right. You stop at the next fork in the path to look at your map. You pull out books on hiking, the trail mix you packed for lunch… and three maps, all for different trails!
That’s when it hits you; you’re lost! You don’t know where you are, and what’s worse, you’re not entirely sure where you’re supposed to be going!
Sadly, this is how many of us start our businesses.
We’re traveling without a map, we’ve lost our compass, and we’re not even sure where it is we’re trying to get to.
So how do you avoid this dreadful fate?
- You could follow the well-worn paths of others, and hope it leads to success and happiness.
- You could forge blindly through the brush (and hope you don’t run in to any bears!)
- Or, you can take a moment to get your bearings, figure out where it is you’re trying to go, and make sure you have a map and compass to get you there!
Business Planning, Step 0
I refer to this as ‘step 0′ partially because so few people do it, but mostly because it’s really the foundational step, the step you take before you actually start out on your journey.
Before you register your domain name, before you print business cards, before you craft your elevator speech.
It’s the step you take before anything else, because everything else flows from it.
Step 0 is about figuring out your ‘big picture’ goals, so that when it’s time to figure out the details of your business, you know what it is you’re trying to build, and what is most likely to get you there!
Step 0: Part 1 – You Are Here!
Have you ever wandered through a giant mall and completely lost your bearings? You know there’s a store you want to get to, but you’re not sure where it is… or where you are for that matter.
Fortunately, the people who design those malls are pretty smart; at regular intervals, they place handy little maps with big red dots exclaiming “You are here!”
Mixed metaphors aside, the first step to any journey is identifying where you are. Once you know that, figuring out which way you need to go, how far away you are, and what obstacles stand in your way becomes much (much!) easier.
Because we love exercises to help you take this information and apply it to your own life!
Quick Tip: Don’t take too long on this! We want your gut reaction, which means you can’t give your head time to jump in and start justifying, or telling you how much you “should” be ever-so-happy with your job (because everyone says how lucky you are) or your environment (because your friends are jealous of your fancy apartment). We also don’t want your inner critic to start judging you and telling you how much you “shouldn’t” be happy with your health (because if you just lost that last 10 pounds, you’d be the envy of your old High School nemesis) or your personal growth (because real intellectuals would spend their free time studying political history). We want the true you to come out in this, which means going with your first instinct.
The good news is, that means this exercise should only take 5 – 10 minutes.
Now that that’s out of the way, consider the following areas of your life;
- Friends & Family
- Significant Other/Romance
- Personal Growth
- Fun & Recreation
- Physical Environment
For each area, ask yourself, “How satisfied am I?” Rate each area on a scale of 0 – 10, 0 being “There’s absolutely no way things could be any worse” and 10 being “I’m living my dream!”
For instance, if “Health” was 0, you might be dead (please don’t be dead). Ok, you’re obviously not dead, but at 0 you’re so unhappy with your current health, you might be wishing you were dead. Maybe you’re overweight, in constant pain, eating nothing but junk (that doesn’t even taste good!) and you have so little energy it’s all you can do to finish doing this exercise.
I highly recommend you finish the exercise, my dear! You obviously need it.
At 10 on the other hand, you’d be at the top of your game; your body feels good, you’re happy with the way you look, and you’d be perfectly happy to just keep on with what you’re doing.
Please note(!!!), this does not mean you look like a super model, or could enter the Olympics, or any other extrinsic definition of health. Remember, we’re only rating your personal level of satisfaction.
So if your mom keeps harping on you to lose (or gain) a few, we don’t care. We only care how you feel about your overall health.
But what does any of this have to do with starting a business?
Remember, this is about establishing your big picture goals. And since I’m assuming you don’t want to start a business so that your entire life can be about that business, we want to make sure your goals include your entire life.
Bonus exercise: For each of the eight areas, write down what is not working for you. Be specific. It can be a bit of a downer, and I apologize for that… but when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed on your journey to that business you’ve been dreaming about, this list of things you don’t like about your current life will help motivate you to keep at it!
The fact of the matter is, every aspect of your life will affect your business. And every aspect of your life is being affected by the work you’re currently doing. When you know what is (and isn’t) working, you’re better prepared to move in the direction of what you want… which is what we’ll be looking at next!
Friday, we’ll look at Step 0: Part 2 – Your Destination! Because let’s face it, that’s the part you really want to focus on, right?
After you’ve done the exercise, share some of your results in the comments below.
- In what areas are you the most satisfied?
- What areas could use the most work?
- Were you surprised by your ‘gut response’?