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Create a Business Challenge: May Update

Business Roadmap

This update marks the end of the fifth month of the Create a Business Challenge. We’re almost halfway through the year, which means I have about 7 months left to build, launch, and sell a product.

It’s terrifying, especially since I had planned on being much farther along at this point, but as you’ll see below, I’ve had some big breakthroughs this month that make me optimistic.

This month’s update is going to be unique in that we’ll focus more on the big breakthroughs (which I think you could seriously benefit from) rather than focusing on my specific progress. I’ll still share my progress at the end, but I want to make sure you walk away from this post with some valuable nuggets that can help you like they helped me.

Side Note: Thank you to those of you who emailed me with feedback on the website changes I mentioned in the last update. More and more people have been signing up for the newsletter (where I share weekly updates), and it’s with your help that I’m making progress, so thank you!

On to the update. Breakthroughs first, then the specifics of my progress.

Big Breakthroughs on Starting a Business

Breakthrough #1: Pick a Business Creation Framework and Stick With It

When I first started down the path of creating a business, I was armed with Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch program and not much else. Zero to Launch is a premium (expensive) business creation online course with videos and templates designed to help people start from nothing and finish the course with sales. It’s powerful in that it offers structure, guidance, recommendations, a private Facebook community, and templates to help you accomplish specific steps along the way. I was crazy-gung-ho about it when I first started, but then I lost momentum.

In a nutshell, I got distracted.

I came across Pat Flynn’s “Will it Fly” book on business validation. Purchased it.

I saw an offer for a cheap market research blueprint from Digital Marketer. Purchased it.

I found about a half dozen free webinar offers in my inbox on topics like “how to grow your email list” and “courses that convert.” Signed up for all of them.

The end result?

I did customer interviews using one framework, then market research using a different framework, then demand validation using an entirely different method.

Months went by and I found myself with lots of fragmented data points and documents. None of it quite fits together, and since the steps don’t build on top of each other, I’m left on shaky ground with a weak foundation for launching a business.

What did I learn from this? It’s better to pick one framework and STICK WITH IT.

This is very much akin to Tim Ferriss talking about how the imperfect plan you stick with is better than the perfect plan you give up on. (Link to a blog discussing this topic)

I’ve talked recently with a number of entrepreneurs who are making serious progress with their businesses, and one thing they all have in common is that they figured out a plan for building their business, and then stuck to it. Whenever they find themselves deviating from their plan, they double back to their roadmap and course correct, or (occasionally) update their roadmap to reflect new circumstances.

Flexible, but focused. That’s the goal.

This next month I’ll go back to Zero to Launch and give it priority over every other framework and method that I’ve encountered this year.

Breakthrough #2: Adopt a “Just in Time” Approach to Learning

I signed up for an Intro to Marketing class on edX after reading about marketing courses recommended by Neil Patel. I tossed time management to the wayside and just went for it with the mindset that “I need marketing to be successful.”

This was a huge mistake.

Do I need to understand marketing concepts? Sure, maybe at some point, just not right now.

In addition, I read countless lengthy blog posts on everything from SEO and landing page optimization to digital marketing and lead magnet creation. What do all of these topics have in common? They’re not relevant to where I am in the business creation process.

Are they important topics to understand? Again, sure – at some point. Just not now.

Right now I need to find a real problem to solve, for a specific customer, and then I need to come up with a minimally viable solution to that problem.

It’s tempting to try to learn every so-called “critical” skill that people push at you, and it’s easy to trade your email address for a free ebook or webinar, but to make real progress, you need to make real time for just the things that are important NOW.

Moving forward, I’m going to guard my time more carefully. I’ll be able to find free guides and posts on whatever topic I need to learn when I need to learn it (later).

Breakthrough #3: Get Good at Saying “No” to Activities, Opportunities, People

Related to guarding your time carefully, the ability to say “no” to activities, opportunities, and people is absolutely essential to getting real work done.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple months developing various income-generating opportunities, and that hard work has paid off with a good deal of job offers and freelance gigs.

And as tempting as it is to say “yes” to each and every one of them (I need the cash, that’s for sure), I have to say “no” to some if I’m going to have any time for working on my own business. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

Same applies for activities and people.

There are a lot of fun and exciting things I could be doing here in Malaysia – snorkeling, scuba diving, cave exploring, etc. – but they all cost time and money. Both of which I’m short on.

So far I’ve been pretty disciplined on this front, but I’ll remain vigilant and keep my “yeses” to a minimum.

OK, on to the specifics of my progress on creating a business. I know this has been a seriously non-traditional business update, but I’m trying to share as much as I can before I have to get back to work (I’ve scheduled out my day in Pomodoro sprints and I have a ton of work to do).

Progress Building a Business

Virtually… nil.

It sucks reporting little progress. Honestly, it’s tempting to try to hide it and cover it up, but the truth is that I did not make real progress on creating a business in May.

Making money was the #1 priority, and as I mentioned above in the breakthroughs, I’ve been distracted and switching gears too often, which I’m putting a stop to this month.

This is a weird “ask” – but, please don’t come back to this website if you don’t see any update in the “Progress” section of next month’s update.

If I don’t report any progress in the next update, then clearly something is wrong with my priorities and you shouldn’t waste any more time reading my posts.

Current Status

Right now, I’m downloading audio tracks from the Zero to Launch course (my internet here can’t handle the size of the videos).

Recently, a lot of my time has been spent making money (I got a direct deposit today – hooray!) I’ve made really good progress on the income front, but again this is tangential to creating a business.

I still have a daily commitment to working with orangutans, but I spent 30 minutes yesterday blocking off chunks of time in my calendar for income-generating work, as well as business-creation work.

Also, I’ve completely re-designed my business creation roadmap (the featured image for this post is the 30,000 ft view version) – which I’ll be sharing on the blog shortly (those of you who emailed me got the complete and detailed version). The re-design came from combing through the ZTL course framework, and from asking for input from you guys, and from consulting fellow entrepreneurs who are just a bit further along in the business creation process than I am.

Next Steps

This is clear and simple: take the Zero to Launch course seriously and stick with the program. There’s a specific process to follow, questions to answer, and tasks to complete, and I’m going to give it a real shot.

I’ll continue doing online work to make money, but I aim to make real headway with:

  • Finding a pain point to solve
  • Finding a customer who has this problem and has the ability to pay to have it solved
  • Finding a potential solution that could solve the problem

Finally – You may have noticed that I’ve been posting less regularly on the blog. This will likely continue for some time. I’ll still continue to post, but my goal is bi-weekly, instead of weekly. Blog posts take time, and I’d rather use my precious hours building a business (so I have something to really show you!) instead of trying to build traffic to this site through content.

However – I’ll continue sending email updates on a weekly basis. Feel free to subscribe to the newsletter if you want more details, updates, and lessons learned via email.

OK, time to get back to work. Until next time.

4 comments… add one
  • Emily June 3, 2016, 9:05 am

    You’re the hardest working person I know… and I know you WILL build, launch, and sell an amazing product that will bring value and help to so many people!

    • Charles Johnson June 8, 2016, 11:40 pm

      Hey thanks Emily! I appreciate the positive energy =) #letsdothis

  • Aaron June 8, 2016, 9:21 pm

    I hesitate to offer fellow entrepreneurs advice because there’s so much of it out there, but your post reminds me of my own tendency to juggle several important things at once. So here goes: When I come to moments when I’m not happy with my progress I’ll block off a full day(s)/week/month—whatever amount of time makes sense—and fully commit myself to get one important thing done. It helps me refocus, gives me a set time to say “no” to non-goal-related things (without feeling like I’m going to say “no” endlessly), and helps me check that big thing off the to-do list (which feels good). Good luck! Looking forward to the next post, but hopefully it doesn’t come too soon. : )

    • Charles Johnson June 8, 2016, 11:44 pm

      Thanks Aaron! Great advice – I especially like the part where you get to say “no” to non-goal related things *without feeling like you’re going to say “no” endlessly* – that’s important for me.

      I’ll give this a try shortly, thanks for sharing =)

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