We’ve been coming back from a lot of trips and I’ve been hearing a lot of things and business questions from so many out there where they really actually borrowing trouble. A lot of people are in the early stages of start-ups and I’m getting a lot of cycles of thought from people that are going back and forth from settling on a name, to rethinking that, to going with another name, then going back to their first name choice. We are helping a lot of people in setting up their podcasts right now, and in doing that we are getting a lot of that re-branding. People are rethinking things and hashing them out and getting stuck in this cycle. We have quite a few tips on setting up your road map to success and not stopping to second guess yourself at every little decision.
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Don’t Go Borrowing Trouble – How to Take the Next Step in Business and Stop Over Thinking
I was at a trade show as part of a panel where people could come up and ask us questions about what is their biggest challenge and we would help them with that, many of these people were already borrowing trouble for their business idea. Someone had the name for what they were doing and it was meant to resonate with the college student market – it was a little cheeky which makes sense, and he was very concerned that as he was going to make presentations to the administrations to the various colleges to get their support for what he needed to do, he thought that they would be offended by the name of it. That maybe it was a little too cheeky for them, that it wasn’t professional enough from that standpoint.
A lot of other people on the panel were going through and saying things like you have to consider your primary audience and who’s the target. As the other panel member were giving their answers I was sitting back and thinking about it, and this is a case of what Tom calls “borrowing trouble.” When you would worry about things in the future that hadn’t happened yet and were so far away from happening, it’s called borrowing trouble. They aren’t necessarily problems. They actually more things that aren’t even probable to happen yet, it just might happen if a bunch of circumstances occurred later. I’m totally a think-it-through type of person and worry about things months down the road. I like to think of it as a strategic and tactical part of my brain, like a chess move if you don’t make the right move now, what’s going to happen. You have to play speed chess though when you are in business, you only have so much time to do it. You have to make a decision and be decisive.
Back to the example, I had to ask him, “Do you know for certain that the administrators don’t like this?” And he told me that no one has actually ever said that to him. So he is borrowing trouble! He has the site, it’s resonating with the college community already, he just wants to get it integrated on campus. The campus should be excited, and the administration should be excited that he has something of such value to their campus that their college student audience likes. If you turned it into a corporate thing and the college students don’t join, then it doesn’t do the campus any good. It won’t matter if the administration lets him on campus if the students who he wants to buy aren’t going to relate and therefore won’t buy.
The important part about a name, and we had the same problem when we were naming WTFFF?! – about worrying if some educators or parents of students wouldn’t understand the name from the get go, the thought crossed our minds. We said though, at the end of the day, if someone gets the joke and understands that WTFFF is kind of funny and is an inside joke to the 3D printing community, then they are our audience. It’s kind of like a pre-qualifier, if they don’t get it then they are not ready for the podcast. That’s where we said to look at it from the standpoint of who your audience really is. Does it fit their criteria? Are they happy with it? If there is a disconnect there then that’s the time you do something about it and screen against your criteria and see if it really is a good fit here and is resonating with the right market. Now you have a problem, you didn’t go borrowing trouble.
It’s the difference between thinking through whether you have a valid and solid solution and just running through scenarios of what ifs in your head. Really the message of “don’t borrow trouble” is “don’t speculate.” We talk about in business plans about predicting things and doing all your research on who you market is, but that’s the point – you’ve got to know. If you are speculating and you are worried about something that you think might be, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you know for sure or that you have some indicators that are telling you that it really might be that way.
In the case of our guy from the panel at the trade show, it was resonating with the target audience and market, so what’s the problem? It makes sense to me. He was just borrowing trouble and worrying about something that doesn’t exist. He was getting in his own way.
This is that mindset we want to address today. I see a lot because we have been doing a lot of work with Mentors 2 Inventors, which is our sister site where we mentor those who want to take their products to market. Some involve 3D printing, some don’t, it’s not necessarily 3D printing related. It’s for anyone who wants to launch anything product based – not really services, but physical products that also aren’t really tech-y either. Anyway, we have a lot of guys (and I say guys because we tend to have more of a male audience there), but they are getting caught up in a cycle of over thinking everything. They haven’t taken the steps that they need, they are second guessing everything and sending it back to the drawing board again and again.
When we look at that model of it, that’s really why you get into a cycle of not really being able to be successful, not being able to get to market. That’s how you burn through a lot of cash in your business. It’s not that we are not a proponent of coming out there with something that’s half done or half baked. Minimum viable product is not in our language or a word that we use ever. You have to get to a place where you can look at something and say this is meeting all the criteria and all the things I know today and I need to go to the next step. If you don’t keep meeting steps going forward, you are never going to launch.
This to me leads to my favorite cliché or mantra, “hope is not a plan.” The reality of what that really means and breaks down to, is that you NEED a plan. Everything about your process of launching a product or your business, or even growing your business from what it is today, you need a plan to get from here to there. You need to plan it out. Make a road map for what you want to achieve and how you are going to get from here to there.
More importantly than just the road map are the sign posts along the way. The things that are going to pop up and say stop to you. If you are constantly stopping yourself, that’s really the bigger problem that I’m seeing. Like the guy from the trade show, he was stopping himself and second guessing everything and not making progress. It’s self sabotage. There are very few decisions in the process of making a product that’s a single decision that requires that much thought in the process. The day you write the check out for tooling or something like that is not the day you really want to second guess yourself. Did I check the engineering? Did I check off everything? Did I double check everything? Did the engineers look at this? You really want to check all that out before you write that check.
What happens is there are a lot of little decisions along the way that tend to compound into something that sends you off course. That’s because you are not following your signs, those road signs that you set for yourself. When something does not follow the path to the market, doesn’t meet with what the market expectations are, doesn’t meet the criteria you set out – you must use them to be objective for you. Sometimes you get fearful and I can understand that because in my mind, if you are not fearful, you are not doing something right or trying hard enough.
My good friend Michelle Young, and my personal coach, she says to put fear in the trunk. It’s on the ride with us, but it’s not looking at the signs saying, “Oh no, don’t do that!” It’s not the one doing that. It might be banging back there in the trunk and you can double check that sign, but you don’t let it drive the car. You are driving. In the process of going through the path and the plan that you’ve laid out in front of you, there’s going to be detours. Things go wrong. Things happen. You know how it goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” There’s a reason that’s a cliché. It just doesn’t work like that and we get that.
You may have to pivot. It happens, but those that are constantly pivoting means that they are constantly second guessing. That second guessing means you are burning a lot of money and a lot of time and it’s not going to get to market. We spend a lot of time at the very beginning to make sure we have dialed in the criteria, that we are comfortable with them, that we’ve tested the criteria as well and we know that it’s resonating with the market as much as we can. If we can’t do it, we set the earliest opportunity to do it. Maybe we have to make a prototype first before we can ask someone if they would buy it or does it fit, or whatever that unanswered question is.
We identify the questions as well as the criteria. We know when in the process we should be answering those questions. If we don’t know an answer, that’s when we know we should stop and say, “Well if we know it’s wrong right now, is it going to cause a problem?” That’s the time for what-if-ing and time to review and reflect. Maybe take a step back before you take another step forward.
There are so many things in the process that you can set up a system, a process, a plan, a path, a road sign, a road block for yourself at the time at which you want to slow down and look at it and reflect on it. You don’t have to do it on every single decision.
I hope that gets everyone going and thinking about a different mindset this week. Again, not a proponent of being just a do-er so I expect you to think about things. I think about things all the time and run through scenarios in my head, but I don’t let it handicap me and keep me from making progress or let it stop me completely in my tracks. I just let it make me reflect a little bit, be a little cautious, double check against my criteria, see that things are good and then go forward.
Make a decision and then move on. That’s the one thing I can tell you from every book I’ve read and every leadership manual you can find out there. Every successful leader I’ve found, you don’t second guess that decision once it’s made, you live with that decision. It doesn’t mean that you might not make a different decision the next time. Don’t double down, I think we hear a lot of it going on in politics, double downing on a decision is not the same thing as sticking with a decision and owning up to it, taking responsibility for it whether it’s good or bad and saying you are going to fix it. Still saying that you made the decision and you made it the best as you could with the information you had and that you would probably make that same decision again. But now you know something different, so of course you would make a different decision now.
That’s the way you have to go forward, you have to have the confidence level. That lack of confidence level is what derails the most entrepreneurs that I have ever seen. Most of them have great ideas and great products, but it is their lack of confidence and lack of decisiveness that is keeping them from going forward.
This is all applicable to any business, whether you are in 3D printing in some way or not. Hopefully you’ll find this useful. If you have any comments, please leave them in the comment section below, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Also if you want to support our podcast and get a really cool design, go to the upper right corner to the peel back where it reveals our 3D printed collapsible coffee sleeve. If you click on it it takes you to MakerBots page where you can get one sent to you for free.
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