20 questions i've been asked by startups.
BEFORE WE BEGIN
I failed 10+ businesses in my life, then helped Evan Carmichael build his empire for almost a decade. And sadly it took me two decades to learn something vital.
The #1 Most Helpful Lesson You'll Ever Learn About Business:
Like riding a bike, or learning to cook, business is easy.
Business is just: (An offer energized by high-value beliefs) + (well-practiced persuasive pitching.)
That’s the foundation of the economy. Has been since caveman-times. It’s simple. Millions of ‘average’ people have started a business, from all across the world, from all walks of life. The core activity of riding a bike is pedaling. The core activity of cooking is heating food. And the core activity of business is “offering value to strangers.” If a person refuses to practice pedaling their bike, they wobble and fall. If they refuse to practice cooking, their meal will be raw. And if we refuse to practice selling (offering value to strangers), the business will fail.
But many people are more concerned with a flashy brand, or the latest tech, or shots of empty-motivation from gurus… and they’ll do anything to avoid practicing selling, to avoid actually pitching strangers.
Ad-buys, sales, content-marketing, media-coverage, referrals, joint-ventures– are all just forms of pitching. It’s all offering value to strangers. And whichever method you choose, but you absolutely must practice and get good at it. You’d never say, “I want to be a chef!” then practice proper cooking once a week. But it’s common for people to say “I want to be an entrepreneur!” then practice persuasive selling once a week. There’s absolutely no avoiding pitching, selling, offering value to strangers. You can’t ‘do it once in a while.’ It must be done daily. DAILY. Or your business dies.
And as you make these offers, consumers have the power to either accept or reject it. And if you’re serious about business… you’ll track results the same way a weight-lifter tracks their reps.
- If your offers are getting rejected more than you’d like, google, learn, and make them better. Ensure your beliefs are solid and positive. Ensure you believe people WANT your product and value it. Ensure your offer is persuasive. When people encounter your offer, are they full of doubt and objections? Or are they thinking “Yes! This is for me!”
- If your offers are being accepted often enough, STILL google, learn and make them better.
Even if you grow big, you must make sure you don’t forget about the core principle of business: (An offer energized by high-value beliefs) + (well-practiced persuasive pitching.)
This is business.
It’s not that complex. It’s not neuro-surgery. No one’s asking you to become a Michelin-star chef. No one’s asking you to become the next Elon Musk.
And yes, it requires personal growth. It requires self-discipline. Awareness. Passion. But practicing anything requires those things.
Fact is, millions of ‘average’ people are running businesses right this very minute. Everyone likes to make it complicated, because it gives them an excuse for failing at it. But we’d never let people convince us riding a bike or learning to cook is complicated. Because like I said at the beginning…
Business is easy.
ADHD, cycles of inaction, and health issues are no excuse to avoid practicing selling.
There are plenty of people who've started a biz, much worse off than you.
They knew that 'practicing selling' is the essential daily activity of business, and it's as easy as swimming. So they put their toe in the water and did it.
1. Do I have to focus on one business?
Sigh. You’re a startup, and business is not a game for the faint of heart. Your biz is your livelihood. It can be fun, but also dangerous. And unless you’re a pro, serial entrepreneur with tons of experience, getting a single business off the ground is going to take all your focus.
Think it through, if you’re not a pro juggler, you shouldn’t be juggling 3 chainsaws, right?
You should be practicing and getting the feel for a single egg, until you basically never drop it. Only then do you add a second egg.
Focusing on one business is highly f**king recommended.
P.S. This applies to trying to grow multiple platforms, juggle multiple projects, and publishing multiple content-formats too. Just be smart, please.
But I am focused!
Every startup founder says they’re focused… but they’re nearly always deluding themselves.
Just because you occasionally mention your dream, doesn’t mean you’re really focused on it.
Want help with this? Check out 5 Reasons You May Not Be As Focused As You Think!
2. Do I have to cold-approach people?
Nike cold-approached to start making money. As did Sara Blakely of Spanx. As did the Beatles. As did Bill Gates.
Every founder you can name cold-approached to some degree or another. Skipping cold-messaging is like skipping groceries, (or refusing to order-out) but still wanting to eat. It never goes well.
But what if I think “Ew, cold-pitching is yucky?”
Then click here to read my cold-pitch primer.
COLD-PITCHING IS ESSENTIAL. UNAVOIDABLE.
3. Do I really need to pitch 1000+ people?
Yes, you do. And you will face rejections & criticism as you do it, just like every other business before you.
You’re a new, untested business with very little credibility. You need people to take a chance on what you offer. Approximately 1 person in a thousand is going to take a chance on you. This goes for every startup.
There’s 8 billion people in the world, asking you to reach a few thousand for proof and momentum really isn’t much.
A teenage intern could pull this off for minimum wage, and so can you.
Yes, you need to pitch thousands.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
― Henry David Thoreau,
Success-seekers romanticize success rather than do the practical daily work needed to achieve it.
4. How do I attract customers?
Deliver value to them. Ideally persuasive, compelling content that resonates with a specific group of people, problem, issue, or topic.
Ever had someone give you a free sample in a mall? Or received a free gym membership coupon in the mail? Or gotten 1 month free at Netflix or Amazon?
Every business began with free value, offered from the heart, over and over to ‘strangers’ who are likely to be receptive.
If you handle the interaction well, if you handle the follow-up well, if you give them a clear, compelling reason to come back for more, and you do it with a proper number of candidates… you’ll get customers.
VALUE, VALUE, VALUE.
I HAVE TO HUSTLE, BUT...
5. Do I have to be full-time?
Time isn’t the issue, even if it seems like it is.
What really matters is urgency. Many startup-founders are more urgent about getting their Netflix fix, than they are about getting customers. They’re more urgent about scrolling social than they are about acquiring leads. You can tell what you’re really urgent about by your results.
If you spend two hours to cook, eat, & clean each meal of your day, but spend only one hour pitching, you were urgent about meals and NOT urgent about pitching. Period.
TIME'S LESS IMPORTANT THAN URGENCY.
MAYBE I'M WRONG, BUT...
7. Business is hard, right?
Nope. It’s as simple as cooking. Or biking, or swimming, or writing, etc.
Just like in cooking, when you first start, you may not be a gourmet chef… but basic cooking skills to feed yourself and feel satisfied? Totally doable.
Same goes for business.
8. How come no one gets me?
I’m about to tell you an ugly truth that pisses off most people who read it:
Truth is, if you’re a startup…
- Your conversations aren’t clear, catchy, or concise.
- Your elevator pitch isn’t clear, catchy, or concise.
- Your social bylines aren’t clear, catchy, or concise.
- Your posts & captions aren’t clear, catchy, or concise.
- Your video content isn’t clear, catchy, or concise.
I’ve never seen a startup that had clear messaging, branding, targeting, value, or offers.
I take a look at their stuff, and all I can think is “WTF do you do? What do you sell? What do you offer? What value are you to me? Who do you cater to? What is your specialty? What makes you different?”
And most importantly, why do I have to struggle to figure it out? Why is that not all communicated to me in a single sentence?
You don’t have to be god-tier concise about it like “Apple Computers – Think Different” or “Nike Athletics – Just Do It”, but you do at least need something like:
“I’m a dating coach for conscious cougars” or “We offer practical wisdom for rebel-preneurs.”
Like… at least make an effort not to waste every viewer’s time with your rambling walls of text and shot-gunned, scattered offerings.
Go look at all your offerings right now and rate them on how clear, catchy, and concise they are. I bet you it’s not even close to how clear your competition’s materials are.
Their stuff’s clear. Yours is not. And that’s why people don’t get you.
Because you're not clear, catchy, or concise.
WHAT ABOUT BRANDING?
9. Can I do business without a name? A logo? A website?
Yes, you can. They’re not very important for early-stage businesses. They’re ‘flashy’ things you can add to a business anytime. Nike started out as ‘Blue Ribbon Shoes’, absolutely brutal name. But it didn’t matter, they were helping people, providing value, and doing the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts of selling and business. Apple had a disaster of a logo when they began, but again, they were doing the daily work of helping people, so it didn’t matter.
Name, logo, website can all come later. Most often they’re used as an excuse for people who’d rather make the fun, fancy, flashy branding part of a business, rather than do the legwork of pitching value to strangers.
They’re sometimes nice to have early though.
Anyway, if you really think names, logos, brands are important for your startup, these videos we made cover it in-depth.
YES, YOU CAN.
10. What If I don't have competition?
Everyone has competition.
I don’t care if you’re selling bespoke psychic readings to vegan ballerinas…
Someone else has done something similar to what you’re doing. Straight up. And it’s arrogant AF to think otherwise.
There’s nothing new under the sun.
Uber was original & disruptive, but they learned business tricks from the cabs, buses, and other transport services before them.
Spotify was original & disruptive, but they learned from iTunes, YouTube, and other streaming services before them.
A startup who refuses to learn from their competition deserves to lose.
EVERYONE HAS COMPETITION.
"You don't get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results."
11. Should I try & target as many as I can?
Nope, startups should not. A startup should target a small group that builds their momentum, because taking over the world isn’t important, building momentum before you run out of time & money is.
Walmart began by targeting home goods only, they added clothes, groceries, way later.
Amazon began with books only, they added other fields after making a lot of money.
McDonald’s began with burgers & shakes only, they expanded to other foods after they had momentum.
Trying to reach “all men” or “all women” or “everyone” is terrible choice for a startup and you will fail. Instead, reach a clear, targeted segment that you can for-sure, without-a-doubt help, and who will believe in you.
STARTUPS TARGET WHAT IS EASIEST.
12. How do I get testimonials?
The same way you get your first sale.
You get testimonials one at a time, by building a track-record of delivering value. Keeping your word. Going the extra mile.
Give insane amounts of value, with zero agenda. Do that, and people can’t HELP but gush and praise you.
People are happy to reciprocate the value in the form of a testimonial. You just have to ask.
13. What if I have bad beliefs about money?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more money, in fact, it actually helps the economy. But nobody’s taught you about the biggest deal-breaker to wealth-creation ever.
It’s not ‘hustle harder’, ‘market better’, or ‘master facebook ads.’ The biggest block is your money beliefs.
This video will help.
FIX YOUR MONEY-BELIEFS, FAST.
WHAT IF I HAVE ISSUES THOUGH?
14. What if I have bad beliefs about time?
Society hasn’t taught you about time properly. Parents & teachers have given you bad time-habits & time-mindsets. You deserve better.
The reason you “don’t have time”, is the same reason celebs seem to have “time for everything.” The people we look up to have a much different understanding of time than the average joe. You’ll never hear them say in a panicky voice “I’m way too busy, I have no time”, and that’s because they understand time differently.
It’s reasonable to wonder how to get more time, so this video digs deep into how you can journey from time-excuses to time-mastery. From time-scarcity to time-abundance. Hope you enjoy!
FIX TIME-BELIEFS FAST AS WELL.
― Robert Collier
THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK.
15. Can I skip all this & get a passive income?
Everyone wants passive income. Thing is —and people don’t like this— the path to creating it requires the opposite: active income.
What do I mean? I mean that Sara Blakely didn’t have her automated Spanx production line when she started. She spent months knocking on doors of North Carolina factories and getting them slammed in her face. McDonald’s didn’t start out automated. It started with Maurice & Richard hand-demonstrating fancy milkshake machines to restauranteur after restauranteur. Nike didn’t start out with people flooding their stores. It started out with Knight & Bowerman traveling to ‘track meets’ and selling their shoes in-person. Even ‘passive’ real-estate services had to make ‘bad investments’ in ‘bad tenants’ first before they found the ‘good tenants.’
Every business we look up to began with pro-active hustle.
Passive, automated income is a ‘reward’ for people who believe in their product enough to hustle it by hand. Building a passive income takes real grit, love, and heart. You can’t automate a process that doesn’t even exist. And developing your process, in your business… takes real time, energy, and effort.
PASSIVE INCOME TAKES HARD WORK.
16. Why won't people click my content?
Ask yourself some questions about your content, and you’ll know why.
Is my content emotional?
“Does my own content move me, honestly? If I showed it to a stranger on the street would they chuckle? Smile? Tear up? Gasp?” Because our job as rebel-preneurs is to move people to action, and that requires an emotional shift from their auto-pilot lives.
Is my content recognizable as mine?
“Does it stand out in a sea of content? Is it branded? Recognizable by feel and vibe and design alone?” ‘Cause if not, it’s very hard to build a ‘rapport’ with your content. People want to feel like it’s you when they see a piece of your content, but they can’t if your branding is unclear and they don’t know what ‘you’ is.
If you ask these questions to yourself, and allow your natural answers to bubble up, it may give you a boost in your content-creation.
And this ‘Breathability’ case-study that I did for Evan Carmichael will take you even further.
YOUR CONTENT NEEDS WORK.
Is my content persuasive?
“Does my content push the levers that persuade people? Do I consider myself an excellent persuader?” Because many people create content that seems to be fire, but in reality it is not persuasive. And even so, what is it persuading them to do? Like? Share? Buy?
Does it match my audience's mind?
“If people are focused on Covid / Trump, am I riding their current focus, or does my content go a different direction? If they’re talking tinder / zoom, does my content fight that, or leverage it?” Resonance is essential and often overlooked, even by the best content makers.
THIS IS CRAZY...
17. It's too much! What do I work on first?
Startups are way simpler than you think. All that matters in the beginning is the cycle of stocking your business’s ‘fridge’ with leads, feeding those leads, and converting some percentage of those leads into paying clients. Then as the fridge gets empty, start again and repeat the cycle.
If you’re having struggles in business, it’s because you broke this simple but sacred cycle.
Just like if you stopped filling your fridge, your child would starve. Or if you stopped feeding your child, your child would starve. Or if your child stopped eating/digesting, your child would starve.
Your business is your baby. Nurturing it to grow is way easier than most people realize. If there’s any problems getting it going, it’s because you f**ked up this vital, essential, simple cycle. Feed your business daily and grow rich.
So, the question is, which step are you weakest at? Which step is forcing your biz to starve, plateau, or grow slowly? Start there.
Most people have a list of things to fix in their home. So why do so few people have a list of things to fix in their biz? It’s because they’re not intimate & attentive with their business, the way they are with their house.
Understand that just like a home, your biz has never-ending renovations that can be made. And issues that need resolved, ASAP.
These issues are obvious because we live in our house, and interact with all parts of it often. In a business, these things are obvious as well– but only if you’re doing the daily work. Only if you’re deeply involved with the business. Only if you interact with all parts of your business often.
That means you can’t ignore marketing. Or avoid outreach. Or disregard branding. Or dismiss operations. Or slack on HR. You need to be interacting with all these areas, regularly.
In a house, if you never go near the kitchen, you won’t know the fridge stopped working until the food rots. In a business, if you never go near outreach, you won’t know if your messaging needs improved until your customers dry up.
START WITH WHAT'S IMPORTANT.
If you don’t have a home remodeling list, you’ll live in a broken-down, ramshackle place for years to come. And if you don’t have a biz remodeling list, you’ll be running small, struggling biz for years to come. So pay attention to your business and write down a list of things to remodel about it. Then start with the most important.
You don't even have to 'think' of your list.
Daily frustrations write your list for you.
18. Am I making progress?
You tell me.
A key skill for a founder is the ability to self-assess and course-correct if necessary. If you can’t assess where you are, you have zero clue if you’re making progress or not. If you can’t see where you’re going and if the scenery is changing, you’ve zero clue on your progress. Assessment is such a vital skill. If you have to ask someone else, you’re already kind of f**ked.
LEARN TO SELF-ASSESS.
I'M FINALLY PITCHING BUT...
19. How do I handle haters?
Most of us accidentally pick-up haters (or people who discourage our dreams) and then we feel stuck with them.
They might be our family, friends, co-workers, or even people we look up to, and it feels impossible to disentangle from them.
Even though there’s all kinds of advice out there about what to do, the main thing to realize is this: you have the power to control the situation.
In this video I drop some tough love and empowering truths on how to handle haters. I give some practical ways you can approach them, even if they’re family. Enjoy watching 🙂
HATERS ARE FUEL, BE GRATEFUL.
20. But I Can't Sell...
I’ll let y’all in on one of my shameful secrets. I’ve been studying communication for decades, and I even brag about being a great communicator… but until recently, I never knew the most basic foundation of communication.
I never knew about persuading ‘the masses.’
I mean, I have so much wisdom on so many topics, but I’ve rarely been able to persuade anyone to my cause. It’s my bad, because persuasion is one of the most basic, fundamentals of being an entrepreneur.
- Persuade staff to work.
- Persuade investors to fund.
- Persuade partners to join.
- Persuade samplers to try.
- Persuade clients to buy.
And if we’re bad at it… well… it’s a very bumpy road, and we’re not in business long.
But if this skill is so important, why is it so rarely taught or mentioned? Because it’s mostly hidden. It happens imperceptibly, behind-the-scenes, under-the-surface.
Plus there’s much easier things to teach, like “starting an email list”, or “building a traffic funnel.”
But what nobody tells you, is that those things only work if you persuasive.
Lesson one is: Give people what they secretly need first, in your very first communication with them…
…because only then will they be open to your other offerings.
PERSUASION IS EVERYTHING.
“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”
21. But if I try hard, will i succeed?
Lots of people try and fail. ‘Trying hard’ is not the ticket to success, no matter what the gurus have told you.
You succeed by having a huge desire to deliver value to people, and beliefs that people are eager to pay you for that value, and you do the daily work of getting your pitch in front of strangers, with a happy attitude.
If you don’t have the desire, beliefs, or happy energy in your pursuit, you’ll fail.
YOU SUCCEED WITH DESIRE, BELIEFS, & ENERGY IN YOUR DAILY WORK.
WHEW, THERE YOU GO.
20 truth-bombs for startups.
I hope it was valuable to you.
These are things that our rebel-preneur Wolf-Pack have asked me in The Den. (our underground facebook community for rebels.) They are also things I’ve taught Cynthia ‘Cynshine’ Moreno during her last 3 failed startups. They were brutally hard lessons for her, but they don’t have to be.
Learning these things can be smooth and easy for you, and you can pick them up very quickly, but only if you open your mind, take a good look at yourself, and really apply them.
Reading teaches very little. Practice, application, and experience teaches a lot, and fast.
So please, get out there and apply one of the answers here, immediately. Cyn & I care about you and want you to succeed.