I’m writing this article two weeks before the website for my new enterprise, HardTalk, “drops” (US President Barack Obama used that term, so that makes it okay for me to use it as well!), and it represents the culmination of pretty much my whole career, and certainly almost two years of focus and hard work.
HardTalk is a new service designed to help individuals, teams and organizations have the difficult conversations that make a difference to the bottom line more effectively. It’s based on research from fields as diverse as behavioral economics and neuroscience and combines this with our experience delivering training and coaching in the Middle East. I’ll be presenting HardTalk in various forums and writing about it regularly over the next few months, but this new website is a large part of how we are going to explain what HardTalk is to the world. Obviously, the fond hope is that the world will agree there is a huge need for it, and that my team and I can help people in organizations to have more effective conversations and get the results they want.
HardTalk is truly the first “scalable” service my company PDSi has offered, as, until now, everything we did was custom-built. In the process of building HardTalk, whilst also doing my full-time job of running my existing business and serving my clients, I learned a few things that I think might help other fellow entrepreneurs spearheading their enterprises- and I’d like to share them with you here.
1. Have a network -in real life and on social media- of people that you enjoy and you have helped Don’t be the guy who only gets in touch when they need something. If it is someone you don’t know well, leave them alone, unless you really have nowhere else to go, or something fantastic to offer e.g. money! Build your network now because you will need one when you have to.
2. Ask for help- you are going to need help As you see your idea build up and become real, you’re going to need to get all kinds of help. For example, you might need recommendations for suppliers (in my case, this involved soliciting suggestions on everything from erasable pens to hairstylists), or you might even need some particular kind of expertise, or an introduction. When asking, make sure to be real: be humble, don’t try to pretend, tell people what you’re trying to do, give them an out, and thank them no matter what, as they’ve given you something valuable- their time or expertise.
3. Build in wiggle room in terms of budget and time No matter how wonderful your suppliers are, and how much time you have, the last few weeks start to feel very tight, and you really want to be on your best game for your actual “launch,” so that you can enjoy it.
4. Work remotely when you can Because of the huge developments in technology, working with suppliers who do not live or work in the same geographical location is now more than possible. This has allowed a veritable army of talented people to offer their services for particular jobs or projects rather than as a full-time hire. As you build your business, this will allow you to make use of talents all around the world.
5. Try suppliers on small things first Despite recommendations and, sometimes, online ratings, you can never be sure that the person will deliver. So build up your confidence (and theirs) by starting them up on small or less important jobs, giving them lots of feedback at regular and well-defined intervals, and then building to more complicated and critical pieces of work. It’s also an opportunity to develop your briefing skills or ability to succintly describe to another human being what you want from them- an ability that’s vastly underrated in my view.
6. Take time off Doing all of the above is exhausting, as you’re juggling dozens of balls simultaneously. Build some time off into the plan so that you have time to regroup and get your breath back. You’re no good to anyone if you’re sick or ratty just because you’re over-stretched. And you’re certainly not doing anyone a service by making decisions or executing when exhausted.
7. Capture everything You’re probably going to be fairly obsessed by your idea (this is an understatement in my case) and, if you’re like me, you will go from high-level strategic thinking (what about grey market sales six years from now?) to crazy detail (I know exactly what color the red in the logo should be!) over the space of an hour, particularly at the beginning. Don’t fight this- capture every idea you have wherever and whenever you can, and then keep revisiting these as you go along.
8. Enjoy the process Building this service has been similar in many ways to writing my first book. I found that I went through the same process of collecting “brain vomit” (see above) and then slowly finding the shape in the marble (vomit) as I spend time with the material. But this time around, I’ve been working with a lot more people, and it’s been fascinating to note how that changes things and how, even when working remotely, the different people you work with can change your mood and your whole day!
9. Celebrate the successes You will have some for sure, and it’s easy for them to get lost in the maelstrom, so make sure to notice when something has worked out well or you’ve reached a milestone. It doesn’t matter if nobody else gets it -you don’t have to throw a party when you source the perfect website designer- but take a moment and enjoy it.
10. Remember nobody cares as much as you This is your baby. Nobody else on the planet cares as much about it as you do. Not your parents, not your spouse, not your employees, not even the people you’re paying to work on it with you. But that’s ok. They can still be supportive, but you have to be realistic about what you can expect from others. Instead of expecting everyone to be as excited as you, share a little bit and try to find an aspect that they will appreciate or understand.
In some ways, that explains why I’m so excited today. The real work happens in front of clients but the website launch will be the first time for those who have put up with me for the last couple of years as this has all come together, will be able to really see what we’re doing with HardTalk, and why it’s truly different from anything that’s come before. Watch this space!