If you’re an SME still sitting in the station, maybe it’s time to hit the ‘f*ck-it’ button.
I remember so clearly the day I came up with my idea for my consultancy business: Clear Ideas. As soon as I had, I talked about it non-stop to anyone who would listen. Non-flipping-stop. I was in love with my kernel of ambition. Smitten. I was ‘selling it in’ with such gusto there was no way they’d find fault.
I was gassing on so enthusiastically, I now realise, mainly because it wasn’t ‘real’. If something isn’t real you can adapt it to suit the conversation. Someone flags up a possible pitfall? You fix it, in the moment, theoretically. Just like that, it’s sorted. I was a superhero of business; Clear Ideas was the best idea in the world. I can be incredibly convincing when I want to be.
This went on for some time. First a month or two. Then a year… then a little longer.
I called this waiting game ‘market research’ and ‘proof of concept’. There are other words for it I can think of. Bullsh*t! Procrastination! Fear!
Fast-forward 18 months and our brave hero, Nick, has taken the big leap: Yup, I’d finally committed to Clear Ideas. There I was, sitting in my Brighton and Hove co-worker space, Platform9, hour after hour after goddamn hour. It wasn’t like being in the pub when everything was easy-breezy and all made up. Now I was actually doing it. Trouble was, ‘it’ didn’t seem to be doing too much. Life was simpler when I was telling everyone how great the biz was going to be, rather than deciding what ‘productive’ had to look like on the daily.
I was busy though. Really busy.
I was sorting out my vision, attending my coaching qualification course, attempting to create my website (don’t do it, get the pros in), putting together my strategy, trying all the things I knew I had to pour into my business from Day One. All essential stuff.
What was I honestly doing? I was STILL wasting time! Treading water. Dragging my heels. Putting off trying to engage with a potential client in case they told me what I didn’t want to hear… namely: “Your idea’s rubbish, mate!”
Starting a new business
One day I got tired of my own nonsense. I had a word with myself. It went: “F*ck it: let’s make something happen. Something real.”
I hadn’t planned for anything to happen. I wasn’t being a brilliant strategist, I can assure you. My extremely long, ‘Nick’s a Busy Bee’ to-do list in my new Clear Ideas notebook did not have this next bit of the story laid out. But I put an advert up on the Platf9rm Slack channel that offered my services to all and sundry. There are around 800 businesses in residence here. It was the equivalent of sticking a notice up in a local youth club.
‘In a rut with your business? Come and talk to me. Need another set of eyes on a problem? Come and talk to me. Need a bit of short-term coaching? Talk to me. Come and talk to me about anything to do with your business and I will listen, reply and we’ll see if we can find the gaps to manoeuvre into a positive space.’
I pressed ‘Send’ and went home.
Next day, disco! I had 15 responses! (Fifteen is amazing!) These enquiries resulted in five pieces of paid work – which in turn later resulted in a gratefully received high-worth referral. I was up and running… and busy in a very real way.
I was thinking about that moment last night. It was integral to launching Clear Ideas, and it hadn’t appeared on any plan or in any conversation whatsoever, but it changed absolutely everything, overnight and ever since.
I guess what I’m getting at here is trusting to the value of a quick, instinctive decision; a punt that just feels golden.
Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005): “We live in a world that assumes the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into it.”
He’s so right to question this. Have we overstated the value of our drawn-out, caution-driven planning process? Listen to your intuition.
Yes, you can plan it out, think it through, test the hypotheses, run the imaginary numbers, try another trial. You can do this well after everyone’s put on their coat, switched off the lights and gone home. But trust me, there’s a point before you’re ready where you’ve just gotta go for it and press ‘Send’.
What’s the worst that could happen?