Welcome back to another episode with Ken Moskowitz. In the last episode, we discussed Ken’s career journey and what it was like for him to leave his job and start his own business. We discussed what to expect when starting a business and how Ken grew his business by taking on a partner. In today’s episode, we will discuss seven tips we can use to start or improve our business.
1. Move Forward without Gatekeepers
In the corporate world, there are gatekeepers who stop us from going where we want to go. We have to get approval to launch a new project or to hire a new employee. Often, we have to think about how we can get past them. The good news is that there are no gatekeepers for starting a business.
I could have an idea for a new business today, go on the internet, and create a website using Squarespace or another website builder, and have version one of my website by the end of the day. I could set up a payment processor like PayPal. Tomorrow I can file the necessary paperwork with the state and set up an email address.
There’s nothing stopping us from doing these things today. We don’t have to get special approval; we don’t have to get past any gatekeepers. “It’s easier today than it’s ever been. . . . You can start your side hustle without any friction and build something remarkable,” Ken said.
2. Launch It Now
We can go out and start our business now. Though we should have a business plan, we don’t need to spend a year developing it. We will learn and improve our business so much more by getting out there and doing it.
How many times have we had a business idea, pushed it to the side or to the back burner, and then six months or a year goes by and we see someone else has started that business with the same idea? We didn’t execute on that thought because perhaps we were afraid to fail, but if we continue to do that we will fail in another way.
Ken has a friend who has decided to make major changes to his business, but it has been a year and a half and this friend still hasn’t made them. He’s been fixated on making the perfect version so he hasn’t launched it yet.
In contrast, in Ken’s business, they’ve had five or six iterations of what they are doing. With each iteration, it gets better. Once we launch whatever we’re doing, we can get feedback and improve it. “My goal is to create a version one,” Ken said. “Version one is always better than version none, and too many people are stuck on version none.”
If we have version one, we can take a step back and see all the areas it needs to improve. We can find the things that aren’t working so much easier. Then we can move on to versions two, three, four, and so on, letting it get better with each one.
If someone wants to go skydiving, they may have great intentions to jump out of the plane, but they aren’t actually skydiving until their feet go through that door.
The only way to get the perfect product is to put it out there and get real feedback from real users. Mike Tyson, former professional boxer, once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” We can only plan so much before we launch our business or put our product out there. Once we get out there, we will have to adapt that plan anyway.
“We just need minor improvements on a daily basis, not perfection,” Ken said. “If your version one is 10% of what your vision is, but you improve just 1% every day, look at how much exponential improvement you’ll have at the end of the year. . . . Don’t beat yourself up over the ugly. Don’t beat yourself up over the mistakes. Learn from them, grow from them, and put out your minimum viable product. Your minimum viable product is all you need to start your business.”
We will get to a better and more successful product or business plan faster if we do it this way instead of trying to create it in a vacuum.
3. Scale a Business by Filling in Gaps
As we discussed in episode one with Ken, he scaled his business by taking on a partner. He didn’t have any systems and processes in place and he was still doing the business of copywriting. Ken’s partner, Brandon, had two goals: to organize the business and implement systems and processes on the backend, and to get Ken out of copywriting so he could be the company’s visionary.
These were things that Ken wasn’t good at, but that was okay because Brandon filled in the gaps. He helped the company grow exponentially with his “superpowers”. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to work with people who have different strengths than us so that our work can succeed in more ways than one.
4. Build Security with Recurring Revenue
We’ve discussed recurring revenue in a lot of our episodes because it is so important. Ken said, “The most important thing for any business owner today is building a stable recurring revenue model.”
Without recurring revenue, our sales will be unpredictable. They may ebb and flow without a pattern. If we sell burgers, a customer may come to get a burger one week, they might come the next week, but maybe they won’t come again for a month. If we can sell them a burger subscription, our sales will be much more predictable.
“If you can sell [customers] something that you know they’re going to need us, something that you know they’re going to consume, and package it in a way that’s appealing, that’s attractive, that gives them all the features and benefits, you’re going to build an incredible business,” Ken said.
Recurring revenue can help us build customers that are loyal for life. It can help us predict and make plans for our business, and it can help us sleep better at night.
5. Be Ready and Willing to Adapt
One of the biggest, if not the biggest tectonic shift we’ve seen over the past year or so is the COVID-19 pandemic. Ken believes the pandemic has proven how invaluable the internet is. There were many brick-and-mortar businesses that either didn’t have websites or had very basic websites that suddenly had to shift to utilizing those websites as one of the primary ways to reach their customers.
Ken believes the pandemic has taught us a bigger lesson in being able to adapt to change. Just like we may have to adapt our business plan after we launch our business, we must always be prepared for big changes in the world and business landscape.
“I think every business has to [always] be prepared for change. . . . There’s always going to be something that comes up, there’s always going to be something that goes wrong, so to put your business in the best possible place so that you can weather those storms is critical,” Ken said.
For new or well-established businesses to not only survive but also thrive, we need to adapt and look at all possible avenues of growth.
6. Let the Customers Be Our Advocates
Another tectonic shift happening today is credibility marketing. Since people don’t trust what companies have to say about themselves anymore, we can turn to customers to share their experiences with our products or services.
The Harmon Brothers, creators of ads for Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri, do a great job of this. They share their customers’ experiences, giving proof to potential customers. Testimonials are hard to fake, so potential customers know that they are real people giving their honest opinions. To read my interview with Harmon Brothers CEO Benton Crane click here.
We should share our clients’ stories and let them be the ones to advocate for us and tell people how great our products are. Customers can see through production; they can see through the glitz and glamour of a well-produced video.
YouTube videos are often very authentic because the camera isn’t the best or the camera shakes or there’s a dog barking in the background. These things tell people that the person in front of the camera is real. They have a real-life that isn’t perfect. Many companies are leaning toward the “YouTube effect” by having the quality be a little lower to create more authentic videos.
7. Find a Mentor of the Moment (MOM)
Mentors can be a great tool for when we are starting a business, and they can also help us further down the road. Mentors have been through what we are trying to do, so they can help us get to where they are faster. We don’t have to make the same mistakes they made; we can learn from their mistakes and take a shortcut.
“My goal is to always surround myself with people that are way ahead of me,” Ken said. “Oftentimes, I am the person in the room that has succeeded the least. I surround myself with people that are highly successful, that have done more than me, that have made more than me, that have built more than me because you can see what they do and don’t do, and take cues from them.”
We don’t have to find mentors from the top of the totem pole. Often, the mentors that can help us the most are just a few years ahead of us. They’ve done what we’re trying to do recently, so the industry or market has changed significantly since they were in our spot and their advice is still relevant.
Our mentors can also change. What we need today might not be what we need two years from now. We can find the MOM, or mentor of the moment, as Ken calls them to help us with where we’re at in our careers.
Thank you so much Ken for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- There are no gatekeepers for starting a business. We can start our business today.
- If we launch our business or a new product now, we may be able to improve our model faster than when we try to plan it to perfection before launching. “Version one is always better than version none, and too many people are stuck on version none.”
- Recurring revenue can help us build loyal customers, predict and make plans for our business, and it can help us sleep better at night.
- We must be able to adapt to big changes.
- We should let our customers be our advocates.
- We can find a mentor to help us with where we are in our careers at the moment.
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