This is a post about a simplified process that will help you grasp the process of creating a successful startup. My aim is to give you a deeper understanding of how to manage the growth of your startup. From validating your idea to scaling up and paying salaries.
I’m starting here because I often meet people who want to get into business or marketing but, have no idea where to start. While there is a lot of information available in books, videos and online, it seems to come across as vague and confusing. To help you with the process, I will be breaking down the key stages you need to consider when building and marketing your startup. I will do this by showing you the tools and processes I use to form the backbone of projects I work on.
The “backbone” I am referring to is best illustrated by a simple Spreadsheet, which I call “The Project Overview”, (exciting name, I know). I created it to break down projects I was working on from a marketing perspective. After years of working in different vertices and on different types of projects, I’ve refined it into a powerful tool. It now allows you to quickly gain a high-level view of your Startup. It also allows you to dive in, record information and, make quick calculations. This is useful for clarifying what to work on next.
After this post, you will have a deeper understanding of how startups work, even if you haven’t committed to an idea. You will also gain a tool to help plan the growth of your startup. The tool highlights the key drivers of your success, in multiple areas of the business. It doesn’t simply list KPI’s, it also puts them into context, which is why it’s so powerful.
While many of the reference points I use will be SaaS related, these ideas apply to all types of startups. I have used the process and the mindset I am about to share with you to help build all types of businesses: Professional Services, Apps, Information Products, Fashion, Animation… The ideas often have foundations in general business and marketing theories. I have taken these theories, tested them, then refined into processes to work for me and my clients.
You may need to make adjustments to some of the process and titles in The Project Overview but, isn’t a big deal. You will still be able to understand and implement processes to achieve your goals.
The Project Overview
The Project Overview is a spreadsheet for collecting and, analysing information about your startup.
It’s best to think of The Project Overview as a document like the Business Model Canvas, but extended. It’s similar because it that highlights key areas of your project to focus on. But, is different because it takes things to a new level as it helps manage a business over time.
While the Business Model Canvas is a great tool, I believe it lacks key elements needed to build a project. To be fair, the Business Model Canvas has a different goal, which it I think it achieves. However, if you are serious about building a business, I believe you need something more like a pool of information that continues to be useful. But data isn’t enough, you need to build an interacting matrix of tests that evolve over time. This probably seems a bit abstract so here is what I mean…
Keep in mind that the data that you are collecting throughout this process is not always binary. Rather than trying to work out what is “true”, you are trying to keep abreast of what is “most in line with what seems to be true, now”. I don’t want to be philosophical but, this is an important thing to keep in mind. It’s important because I often see people get stuck trying to find the “correct” or “perfect” answer. The aim here is to have enough of an idea to act now and be confident it’s not a total waste of time.
Putting the theory into practice
If you’ve ever worked on a Startup or on a side project before, the videos have illustrated how powerful The Project Planner can be. If you’re new to Startups and, have never had an opportunity to explore these ideas, it might come across as vague or overwhelming. The best thing I can do to explain how it works is to show you so you can use it too, is to take you behind the scenes of a project using it.
I will be creating a new project and breaking down old ones using The Project Planner. This will allow you to see how the business and marketing theories are applied. You will also get to understand the mindset that goes into efficiently validating and exploiting opportunities. Just as important, it will help you understand what you might want to focus on at each stage saving you both time and money.