Starting a business is an inherently risky undertaking. But you can minimize the risks – and your potential losses – by starting small and planning carefully.
Years ago, back when I was still a copywriter and a marketing consultant, I had a client starting a business offering quit smoking classes virtually (via the phone and online). She’d been teaching live classes for years for another company, but saw a niche that wasn’t being filled.
Even better, she’d already started leading a test class that was going great! So her chances for success seemed pretty darn good.
When she hired me, she was struggling with the best way to deliver content and keep participants accountable. What she really wanted was an automated online tool that could track when someone had completed their homework.
At the time online teaching tools like Moodle were either pretty limited or didn’t exist. But I knew starting out she could use a free teleconferencing line and a system of email inexpensive autoresponders to deliver content. Then she’d just monitor homework manually.
This would all be relatively easy and inexpensive to set up. And it would let her get launched quickly with minimal investment. Then, if her business grew so big she couldn’t handle monitoring the homework manually, she’d know it was time to invest in a custom online system.
We agreed this was a solid, practical plan. Then next thing I know, she tells me a Web developer is going to build her a custom system for only $25,000! That was on top of her Web design fees and what she was already paying me.
I advised against this for a number of reasons (cost, maintenance, bugs, etc.). But she wanted her entrepreneurial dream in all its glory right now.
The end result? With no money left in her marketing budget she struggled to get her business and its fancy Website off the ground. And she put herself in a good bit of debt to boot.
The saddest part is, it didn’t have to be that way.
Now, I believe in playing big, offering tons of quality and value in everything you do, and setting big, fat, juicy goals…
But whenever it comes to launching something new I don’t believe in jumping in whole hog. And I rarely launch anything in the full-blown, state-of-the-art fashion I might ultimately be dreaming of without testing the waters first.
The key is to start small but make sure whatever you do is scalable. Then, as you start seeing success, you reinvest in rolling out in a bigger way.
Because, in the immortal words of my good friend Mike Glavin,
“If you’re gonna swing, swing hard…But be prepared to whiff.”
So I always swing hard, but I make it so it’s not such a big deal if whiff (IE: I miss the ball entirely).
Let me give you a few examples of how I do this, so you can do this too…
- I did monthly free teleseminars for almost two years before holding my first Telesummit.
- I’ll test a concept first as a speaking topic to see if it gets interest. If I get booked to speak on the topic, then I might create a live small group workshop. Or write an ebook on the subject.
- If one of my live workshops proves popular, I record it and turn it into an audio product—one that I already know is likely to be in demand. Or turn it into a virtual coaching program first then a product.
- If I decide to launch a virtual coaching program, I’ll launch just to my list initially to gauge interest before investing in a full-fledged online launch (complete with video, press releases, social media push, etc.) to a wider audience.
- I always search for no-cost or low-cost tools that already exist, like email autoresponders, conference call lines, Facebook groups, Moodle sites, simple Web pages etc., to deliver the content. If it’s a hit then I can invest those revenues into having a custom site, program or app built—if it even still makes sense.
See how this works?
- By starting small you might lose a couple hundred to a couple grand if you whiff, but that sure beats being $30k or more in the hole.
- If you think about how you can scale up in the beginning, and put systems in place early, it’s easy to do later.
- You get the chance to refine your program or product before going big with it.
- Because you’re testing as you go, you have a much better chance of success with each new—and larger—launch.
Yeah, I know a lot of the mindset gurus say you shouldn’t even consider failure as an option. But you know what? Not everything you do, or launch, is going to be wildly successful. Sometimes you’re going to whiff.
If you’re not prepared to miss the ball completely you could be setting your business, and yourself, up for some serious financial difficulties. So remember, dream big, then take a series of smaller steps to get there. You’re sure to achieve more success with way less stress if you do.