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Clarity first, then tools

For new entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of different advice out there about how to start your business. Combine this with our itchiness to get out and start doing our work, and we quickly find ourselves fallen prey to the task temptation, where we just start spending money and doing stuff, hoping something works.

But, from my experience, my very rocky experience, I believe that the most important first step you can take, the smartest way to start, is to get a blueprint of the business that you’re building.

When we first start out on our entrepreneurial journey, we don’t realize that we only have an idea. That idea, although wonderful, does not yet contain the information we need to make strategic decisions about the tools we’ll use to set up and build our business. We need to expand that idea into a blueprint. Getting clear about our work gives us the information we need to know what kind of business to build in order to do our work.

What do I mean by getting clear?

I mean understanding the business that you’re in, the work that you do, the problems you solve, and the people you serve. This is the information that you’re going to need to make those important decisions about what your logo should look like, what your domain name should be, what should be on your website, what emails you should send, what to name your business, the kind of products and services you provide, and how you market them. All of that is going to depend on the work that you do, the problems you solve, and the people that you serve.

I found this out the hard way.

I went on the Internet and looked at the same things you’ve looked at: I want to start a business. Where do I start?
One of the things that I found was that you need an email list. So, I researched and found this wonderful email service, Convertkit. I LOVE Convertkit, but here’s the thing: I was paying $30 a month to them for almost two years before I ever sent a single email. What!? Yes, that’s right. See, I didn’t understand that the email service was just a tool to help me communicate with people, but it couldn’t give me what to say. I had to know what I wanted to say before the tool would be useful.

In the same way, the logo is a tool. The website is a tool. The funnel is a tool. Marketing is a tool. The business name is a tool. They’re all tools we use to represent our work, share about our work, or execute it. But they are not the work. We need to know what our work is before we can use them effectively in ways that move us toward the business we’re trying to build.

Let’s say that you want to cook a fancy meal. You go and purchase cooking lessons from the best chef out there. Then you go out and you buy the best cookware on the market; pots, pans, the whole nine. But you never buy the food. What are you going to use the lessons and cookware on? They’re just tools. Their whole purpose is to provide a means and know-how to help you cook the food.

If you don’t have food, those expensive lessons and cookware can’t help you in your goal to prepare a fancy meal.

So, where do you start in building your business? Well, there are lots of places you could start and lots of ways you could start. But what’s the smart way to start? Understand the business that you’re building. Understand that all you have right now is an idea and that you need a blueprint that’s going to give you a clear, thorough picture of what it is that you’re trying to build. Then go get the tools and the techniques to help you build it.

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