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Step 1 to Starting a Business: Self Understanding

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Setting the Stage

Before we dive into the first step to starting your own business, let’s back up a bit so that I can better explain how my the theory or method that I am about to present was formed.

Around August of 2015, my business partners and I decided to significantly scale down our first venture, Portlight. With the downsizing came a significant amount of free time that I hadn’t had in the past 5 years.

It was around this time that I started to seriously reflect on how we had built Portlight, where we had made mistakes, what I had learned, and how I would do it differently in my next venture. I wasn’t positive what that next venture would be yet, but I knew that I wanted to do it differently.

What resulted from a month or so of deep reflection was a method for mentally structuring a business idea before taking any true action to make the vision come true.

And this is where we start…

Self Understanding

The first step to successfully starting and scaling a business is having the discipline to answer the difficult questions before taking the actionable steps. As we’ll learn over the next couple of months, the process of starting a new business can be broken down into three main stages: self understanding, strategic planning, and belief implementation. Today, we’ll stay focused on self understanding.

Start with Why

Some of you may be familiar with Simon Sinek. He is an author and speaker that popularized the concept of “the golden circle” and has been featured in TED Talks describing his belief of starting with why. He explains the importance of starting with WHY and distinguishes how it is different than the HOW or WHAT of a company.

Sinek argues that a company’s WHY  is what truly defines their potential for growth. He provides numerous examples from Steve Jobs at Apple and the Wright Brothers discovering how to fly. You can watch the TED Talk here.

Similar to Simon Sinek, I argue that you need to fully understand who your business is before you can attempt to push it towards your vision of who you want it to become. Very similar to an individual striving to become someone they envision, it is impossible without fully understanding the person that you are today.

The Stage of Self Understanding Unveiled

I stated above that you must be able to answer the difficult questions before you are able to successfully start a new business. And I really mean the most challenging of questions. Starting a business isn’t a walk in the park and you’re bound to end up in situation you don’t want to be in.

You need to understand how your business could fail, who your customer market is, the financial obligation to start your business, and why the company is going to be able to exist in the long run. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

From my experiences and self studies, I have found that mentally structuring a business can be broken down into the following four pillars:

  1. People
  2. Product/Service
  3. Financials
  4. Customer Market

Before you attempt to start a business, I argue that you must be able to answer any question that would fall into these four categories. Failure to be able to do so could place you in a situation where your credibility as the owner/founder is compromised.

What Happens without Self Understanding?

While it is absolutely possible to start a business without reflecting on the four pillars, I argue that it leads you down a more slippy path than what you are already embarking upon.

Without self understanding…

  • Poor decision making
  • A lack of knowledge in how you will scale
  • Major oversights that can put your business at risk
  • Building a product for a problem that doesn’t exist

Step 1: Complete a Stage of Self Understanding and Research

For both eCommetize and FreeeUp, I spent almost 3 months answering the difficult questions about my ideas. I answered them by myself and then I spoke with my business partners and other mentors to decipher how the business could go south. I’m extremely grateful to all the people that were involved in forming the initial models of the two businesses because they pose questions I would not have thought of myself.

While it is time that you are putting off the actual launch of the business, it prepares you to conquer the first year.

What You Will Learn

If you decide to take the self understanding phase of building a business seriously, you’ll walk away with a new understanding of your idea. Here’s what you will learn.

  • You will validate your idea with customer responses
  • You will fully understand the financial obligation to bring your idea to market
  • You will understand the skill sets and people that you need on your team
  • You will understand who your ideal customer is

Next Column

Now that we’ve set the foundation for the first stage of starting a business, we’ll dive into the first pillar of of understanding your business: People.

We’ll examine you as a founder, the complementary people that you’ll need on your team, your initial team, and who your business strategic partners will be.

Stay Involved with my Journey

It’s not everyday that an entrepreneur publishes their journey for the world to follow. Take advantage of this opportunity and SIGN UP to my email list today.

It’s only one value-adding email each week that you’ll receive in addition to the hundreds that you get from anywhere you have entered your email address before 😉

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About Connor Gillivan

In the past 10 years, I’ve started 7 businesses & built two to $10M+ in annual revenue, teams of 30+ & an exit in 2019. Today, I run SEO & growth for my 4 B2B companies while teaching millions how to make SEO simple.

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