What separates many people from their dreams is often times their ability or inability to take action. One the one side, there are those dreamers, who have 12 ideas per minute and who at the same time find as many reasons why the ideas will not work. On the other end of the spectrum are those who execute without some introspection. Learning great execution is the only sure path.
In short, an Excellent Idea + Poor Execution is more or less the same as zero. However, a Basic Idea + Great Execution will greatly out-perform that excellent idea with poor execution. One thing is clear, execution separates the boys from the men, the girls from the women and the losers from the winners.
Where then can you learn great execution? You can only learn great execution from Going Hard.
Going Hard is all about doing the hard things
Ideas are often centered around the great maxim: What if? What if I can connect farmers to customers? What if I can connect learners to my lessons? What if I can change the world? What if I can connect artisans to people who need them? What if I can connect shoppers to shopping?
Chances are you can! However, how will you execute this idea? What experience do you have in finding the most important things to focus on?
You have likely seen platforms similar to what you want to build. You are also likely thinking of building the same thing. What if we build a website to connect farmers to customers? What if we build a world changing platform? What if we build a platform to connect schools looking to hire teachers? What if we build a crypto platform to help people cryptolize? Lol.
Your execution is already tending towards a poor execution because it is solely focused on the technology that will enable the business whereas, you do not yet have the business.
Majority of people trying to execute follow this path of least resistance, because they only need to deal with the inanimate parts of the idea/business: code, website, app. Whereas, the more important path to success, is to first understand two things: The nature of the problem and the people that have the problem.
Lets take a small detour here and qualify the two broad types of businesses in this “I have an idea” category.
1. You don’t need the tech from day 1 – Tech Enabled Businesses
Many ideas fall under this category. A tech-enabled business uses technology to enable its business. It means that it already has a business that it is using technology to enhance. You want to connect farmers to customers, you do not need elaborate tech from the beginning. You simply need to use available tools to connect them. Your MVP is an Excel Spreadsheet, or two WhatsApp groups. The core business here, acquiring customers and making a margin, is making the connection between the farmer and the customer. For that, you absolutely don’t need an app or a website.
As the business progresses, and as you drive revenue using the already existing tech tools, it will become clear what specific processes within your business needs automation. You are better informed as to what custom technology to build, plus you have revenue! Business is all about revenue, not the shiny app or website.
2. You need the tech from day 1 – Core Tech Businesses
These types of businesses often require their technology upfront before they can acquire customers. The service they offer is such that it is this technology that becomes a useful solution/value proposition to the customer. Examples are replete: Email, WhatsApp, Web Browser, Instagram, Search Engines, ChatGPT, Akowe are all examples of core technology businesses.
Even though this type of business requires its technology upfront, it also pre-supposes that if you are to arrive at success, (happy customers paying you money), then you must also understand clearly, the problem you are trying to solve, and the people you are trying to help. In both types of businesses, talking to the potential customers come first.
Talking to potential customers using open ended questions, help you really extract information from their answers, it can help you enumerate the problems they face in order of hierarchy, which in turn informs the most important solution to provide.
Not talking to customers often leads to providing a solution that solves no problem. A solution looking for a problem. Made possible by building what you think is needed, rather than what is really needed.
Tech Enabled Businesses can become Core Tech Businesses
Yes, they can. Uber is an example, Airbnb is another. Understand the problem, provide a solution, scale it with technology.
Going Hard is about learning great execution
Now that we are back from our detour, what exactly am I trying to convey with this idea of Going Hard?
I believe that majority of people (by this, I mean many young Nigerians) got exposed to business or the idea of running a business via information they consume on social media or the internet. The major examples that they have, are success stories of building a tech business that scaled successfully.
Less told, are the stories of super human grit behind those successes, of the many trials and errors, of many dashed assumptions, of many hacks and pivots, of the numerous “please find attached” emails that went unanswered, of the many promises that never materialized, of the sheer uncertainties of a business environment like Nigeria, of learning business the hard way by experimenting with several things till something started to work.
Running a business is hard. Quite Hard. Your ideas and your execution plans are only blueprints in your head or in your notepad. When they hit the real world, they splinter into so many bits, going off in different directions. You are often wondering which of the splintered bits to chase, and how to juggle all the variables while not having an infinite chest of resources. Learning great execution puts you on a path to success. And even if you fail, you learn something.
Going hard means realizing it is going to be hard, and resolving to be harder.
It means being very deliberate about understanding the core of the problem, who has the problem and how many people/segments have this problem.
It means being very deliberate about discovering and singling out which problem out of the myriad problems you have discovered, is the most banging headache for your customer/segments.
It means being very deliberate about fashioning a simple, yet effective solution to tackle that single banging headache of a problem you have discovered.
And finally putting your simple, yet effective solution in front of people who have this banging headache, at an experimental price.
If they don’t buy it, you have not gone hard enough!
Or Go Home!