Distinct and Direct, Part 2

In the podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup School, Seth Godin gave a guided tour to a group of highly-motivated early-stage entrepreneurs on some of the questions they will have to dig deep and ask themselves while they build up their business. Here are my takeaways from various topics discussed in the podcast episodes.

NOTE: This appeared to be a Q&A session. Although the questions did not come through on the recording, I speculated on what some of the questions might be based on Seth’s answers.

Q: How should we grow our tribes and followers using the social media?

A: It is essential that we do not rent our friends from Facebook. We need to have a direct and controlled connection with our friends and us. That group of friends and fans must get bigger over time. For many of us, email is still the best tool for managing those connections. Once we build this email list with hundreds or thousands of connections, people who want to hear from us by email, that becomes our asset going forward. Also, when we have the connections established with our friends, we do not need middle-men or agents for others to find us. In the future, what we need are more people who have a point of view and are worth following.

Q: How much money should I have saved before launching a venture?

A: It depends on the peace of mind that our family and we need. The basic suggestion for the typical person who wants to do this is to act like you have no money now. Eat black beans and brown rice every single night, never go to a restaurant, never go to a movie, moved to a smaller house, sell your car, and just cut your costs to zero while we are still making a primary income. Take the eighty or ninety percent of the income made and pay it into an account. Get the account to a number where our family and we will be happy for x number of months without any income.

We might have to do this for several years before the amount of money in that account is big enough. We are still eating black beans and brown rice, so we are paying the price early, not paying it late. There will come a day when we say the combination of my freelance income, my project income, and my savings is greater than the costs needed for launching this venture. At some point, we can say that we do not need the security of this paycheck. Leap only after being prepared and do it with the support of our spouse and family.

Q: How can I leverage the existing customers?

A: It would probably depend on the industry and our businesses. It is easy to imagine that there is this magic customer that can do much of the selling for us. Rather than solely relying on the perceived beachhead to attract new customers, it is more important to do what we can to keep the existing customers and add more value to what they do. That is because cash flow beats beachhead on any day. We will be in a much strong position in a negotiation if we can walk away.

Also, see if we can ship and add value to our market on early on. Instead of taking three years to write a book then found out we need to write daily blogs for months/years to build awareness and exposure for our books. There is almost nothing that is worth waiting a year for if the alternative is to go for a week and interact with the market. Trust takes time to build, and the number of fans takes time to build up. We need to start now to interact with the market through daily shipment. Spending time to build the big and important work is fine, but it’s not going to be worth waiting for if we have not already built our way to the audience base we need.