It’s Not Easy In Fact It’s Terrifying, But Damn it Gets Results
‘I’m starting a business’.
Do you know how hard that sentence is to say out loud? And not just to myself, to other people. The fear is real. The fear of not being taken seriously. The fear of financial ruin. The fear of failure.
But it isn’t enough. In my opinion, the number one most important trait in business is, drum roll please… COURAGE. Which leads to our topic.
The way to start a business in 2022 is to #BuildInPublic. I didn’t make the hashtag. I saw it on Twitter, but it screamed at me. There’s something strangely satisfying about allowing the whole world to see your fuck ups. It’s provocative, messy and glorious.
What are you hiding for? Let people see what you’re doing. Get them involved. Get feedback. Build your audience. That’s the power of technology.
It all makes sense right? But perhaps I haven’t been completely honest. #BuildInPublic really means, ‘Fail In Public’ (maybe I’ll make that a hashtag). Have you got the guts? Nothing works perfectly the first time, and you know what? Screw it!
I EAT FAILURE FOR BREAKFAST!
And why not? I’ve been doing it my whole life. How else do you learn? But doing it in front of people? That’s a whole lot harder. There’s a very big difference between:
1) talking about your failures after you’ve learned from them and succeeded
2) failing in front of people you want to take you seriously.
The second one requires bigger balls.
When I was a slightly younger man, I used to skateboard.
In a group of ten skaters, 3 of them would be terrible, 6 would be average. But there was always one guy. This guy would be amazing and for one reason alone…
He had the biggest stones.
WHY BUILD IN PUBLIC?
The #BuildInPublic idea has come from the #tech startup world. But to me it makes sense for any business to consider.
The big priority in tech is getting something in front of your user as quickly as possible, so you can learn and improve. Agile, Scrum, Lean Startup — all this jargon — underneath all of it is the same idea. Don’t wait until you’ve built the thing perfectly. Get a rough and ready version, or a prototype, or even a drawing, in front of the people you want to use it. Get their feedback, and improve.
BuildInPublic takes this a step further. Instead of sharing your product, share your journey. Share the mistakes, as well as the wins. Tell your story to people.
These ways of working have a number of huge benefits. You can:
- Fail fast. Avoid wasting finite time perfecting the wrong product. Find out when you need to pivot your strategy
- Get feedback from your users to improve your business offer to them
- Grow an audience before you’re ready to launch
- Build trust and authenticity with your audience
But on the other hand you’re opening yourself up to public scrutiny. To criticism (no, the internet is not only made up of nice friendly people). And the fear of public failure is like that nightmare where you wake up naked in front of your entire school.
But I like the theory. I get it.
As I said, there’s something powerful about revealing all. Letting go of all the lies, tension and bullshit. So once again.
I’m starting a business. This is what’s happened so far. And I want your help.
Imagine you’ve got this idea for a business. You’re convinced it’s a great idea. You know it has potential. It’s floating around in your head. But it’s hard to put into words. It isn’t fully formed yet — really it’s a mess. Its legs are shaky like a newborn deer.
When you try to explain it to other people, nobody understands. Not even your mum, or your wife, or the cab driver on the 8th attempt. It’s kicking your ass! But that’s the first step. You have to work out how to convey your thoughts. You have to feed the idea. You must stoke it like a campfire until it can burn by itself. Your message must be crystal clear.
I suck at this, but I’m getting better.
To build in public you need to engage your audience in your journey. But how do you do that when you haven’t worked out where to start?
My PF_BD journey started in 2019, with failure.
I wanted to design sustainable stuff. My first product was a reusable bamboo cutlery set. I sourced a supplier. Had 1000 sets made, branded it, packaged it, sent it off to Amazon and guess what? It bombed. And you know what? So it should’ve.
The branding wasn’t right for the message. The message which no one understood. Which leads me to the marketing, which was non-existent. I skimped on the product research and audience development, and had no business systems. Overall it was a mess.
Even sharing this story is difficult. I made mistakes, I fell for the hype. Chucking something on Amazon isn’t starting a business, even though there are loads of people out there telling you it is. I call bullshit on that.
It isn’t easy to launch a product. I tried it, failed. But I learned a ton and started again. I went back to the idea, which I hadn’t crystallised yet.
- I knew I wanted to address climate change
- I knew as a tech focused designer I have a unique and valuable set of skills
- I knew I wanted to make products
- I knew I wanted to sell cool stuff
- I knew I wanted to engage with an audience
Plastic Free_By Design started to form.
It’s been almost 2 years. Covid happened. Other things have happened. I wasted 6 months going down another business route. I’ve started from scratch at least twice. That time all has a cost.
But I’ve done and learned lots in those 2 years. I’ve designed a brand I’m proud of. I’ve built a fast-loading website and have an intricate understanding of how the internet works. I’ve started writing content and sharing it. My #BuildInPublic journey has started. I’m getting traffic. My audience is growing. But there’s lots more to do and really it still feels like the beginning.
it’s not ready. I’m a perfectionist, which isn’t a good thing in this business. But learning is part of letting that go. PF_BD feels like a reflection of myself. Putting it out in public is terrifying…
But it feels good, man.
Building something of your own takes guts. To #BuildInPublic takes even more. I’ve had to become more than I was, and that’s a good thing. When you fail, eat that up! That’s what they call growth. Keep failing, fail all the time, it beats standing still. Keep doing that and I know for sure, that one day you’re going to win.
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