On Starting a Business: What to Do When there’s SO MUCH to DO

With all the experts out there fighting for your attention and warning you that without their “proven strategy,” your business is destined for failure, I can only imagine things can get pretty overwhelming pretty fast.

I remember five or six years ago living in a spare bedroom at my parents house.  I was working my ass off, and when I wasn’t working, I was going through someone’s course.  I will never forget how frustrated I felt.   I was spending 10-14 hours a day in front of the computer seeing little results.  My relationships and my health suffered.   But all the while, I was promised, “All you need is Passion and you can succeed!”  Well, I had the PASSION, but there was still one “P” that was missing… PROOF!

It is possible to have PASSION and still be headed in the wrong direction.  It is possible to be excited about a bad idea!  But there’s nothing more nurturing to that fire inside your belly, than a little bit of PROOF…as in dolla billz!

So, when I get asked the question, “With all the overwhelming tasks required to start and grow a business online, how do we ever know what to do first, and when to do what?” here’s the simple answer I give:

What to Focus on When Starting ANY Business

Find the proof as quickly as possible.  Get to profit as quickly as you can.  As a business owner, your job is to create a profitable transaction between you and a customer.  And believe it or not, you can get a “yes” from a customer without a website, without business cards, and without a logo.  Yet, the big mistake most people make is they spend weeks-nay months! focusing on these smaller tasks, instead of finding proof that what they have will actually work!

What’s worse, it can be sooo easy to keep yourself busy, because you are unconsciously avoiding the harsh reality: your idea might be a complete failure!  (Feare of Failure is a b*tch) If you keep your head down, focus on tweeting, learning some new shiny trick, or sharing your favorite quote, it’s so easy to keep yourself distracted from the real work that needs to be done.

VIDEO: What to Do First When Starting Your Business

Starting a Small Business

How I Started a Business with No Money, No Website, & No Product

Believe it or not, selling something on the Internet is not easy.  There are a million distractions pulling your customers in different directions, and there are all sorts of trust issues with dealing with people online.  Needless to say, it is a challenge!  The following is a fun story of how I had a rather successful business by the end of the day without even knowing it!

Cue the flashback music and ripple effect…

My father is a real estate agent in Laguna Beach, CA.  One day, back in 2009, he calls me up and says he has heard all this buzz about Twitter & Facebook (except he called it TwitterBook and FaceSpace) and his boss demanded he be using these sites.  He proceeds to ask if I would be willing to come in and teach some of these social media strategies to the rest of the agents in his office. I obliged, free of charge of course.

It just so happens that the day I held my impromptu “workshop,” the president of the company popped his head in, and heard what I had to say.  48 hours later, I have a schedule of every other office (over 30) in the Southern California region where I am set up to speak and share on the topics of Social Media.  I offered this speaking/training for free of course.  But at the end of every office presentation I gave, I offered an opportunity for one-on-one coaching, and closed 30 to 40% of the room every single time.  I did this for months without business cards, without a logo, and without a product.

I simply got in front of an audience that I knew I could help and serve, I offered my time, and I found PROOF.  This eventually evolved into where I am now.  Had I jumped to this current spot without doing any prior testing, or “in-the-trenches” work, I may never have ended up where I am now.”

Your business goes through a lifecycle, just like people do!  Unfortunately the entrepreneur with a “toddler business” models the actions of an entrepreneur who has a “mature business.”   The things I focus on now, are NOT what I focused on when I first started.

If your business is young, you’re in the testing phase.  It’s about getting things out there and seeing what’s working, and what’s not.  (this is where the analogy “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” comes from!)  The questions you need to be asking yourself, are: How can I find my customers right now?  How can I sell what I’ve got right now?  How can I see absolute proof that I’m on the right track?

How to Sell Something Before You’ve Created It

I do this, and recommend this all the time, I call it the “Live Bootcamp Model.”  And after implementing this several times myself, I taught this (live with Lewis Howes) back in November, 2012 to a virtual audience of +100,000 people on CreativeLIVE.  We took one person from the audience, (Alicia Dunams), and over the course of three days, showed her how to sell a LIVE “Virtual” Bootcamp teaching what she knows.  By the end of day #3, she sold over $22,000 of her bootcamp, and the best part: she didn’t create the product until AFTER she was paid.  The value her customers received was in joining Alicia LIVE in a virtual format.

Stop doing it backwards.  You don’t need to have 100,000 friends on every social network first.  You don’t need to spend months or years creating the perfect product first.  And you definitely don’t need business cards in order to start seeing positive CASHFLOW first.  All you need to do are three things:

1.  Identify a specific problem for a specific audience

2. Get in front of that audience

3. Offer the solution to their problem in exchange for money 

Don’t believe me?  Think it really has to be more complicated than this?  I just got off the phone with a good friend who has been “chasing the online game” for years.  Yet, in the past few months, he’s been able to fully replace his income simply by attending local Chamber of Commerce meetings and offering Local SEO and Social Media Services to the small business owners in his home town.  In fact, the reason for his phone call: he just landed a big contract with a lawyer! He finally decided to get in front of his customer, and solve their problem.

1.  Identify a specific problem for a specific audience

2. Get in front of that audience

3. Offer the solution to their problem in exchange for money

Keep it simple.  Everyone else will do their best to complicate it for you.  🙂


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  1. says

    Had a nice read. I’m currently learning from your real marketing insider training and I’m learning a lot. I’m glad to find you online. You’re a great mentor!

  2. says

    I love this post, James! I have been struggling with this exact thing. There is so much information out there telling you to do this thing and that thing, that you get completely overwhelmed!

    Thank you for the great advice, and the reminder to focus!

  3. says

    There is so many things to think when you starting up a business. Sometimes we do not realized that what we need to do is just meet with the targeted audience. Those three steps are really the first thing we should think about. And focus on the rest of the marketing. Make sense. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Avril Oliver says

    Great advice James, loving your video series! So much of our time is spent hooked up to being online that the offline can get totally neglected. A face to face is often the best way to close that deal in your local area and boost your start up biz.

  5. says

    Thanks for this post James. As a successful Online dude its nice to hear you say “Start Knocking on Doors.” if you are just starting out. Money follows relationships and the best relationships seem to come from being physically in front of someone. I love the online stuff, but most of my clients do come from meeting them in person. Thanks for putting this out there.

  6. says

    James, thank you for this video. Reminded me of what I have to do next! And you are so right about the ‘non-business plan’ approach, you speak from my heart!

  7. says

    Great Video James.
    Sometimes we tend to complicate things & do not think about making use of the resources we already have. For example – existing contacts.

    The other reason is most people are comfortable sitting behind a computer & don’t think of getting out of their comfort zone.


  8. says

    Hey James, pretty awesome response about offline marketing and offering services so we can be in profits as soon as possible.

    I was neglecting the offline world because I was stubborn enough to live solely from online marketing but since I haven’t achieved my goals I still gotta eat somehow and I’ve been full time doing Internet Marketing.

    It’s funny how a simple wordpress installation costs $5 USD on fiverr but I can charge up to $1,500 USD offline for the same exact service.

    I believe that’s definitely an eye opener.


  9. says

    James, Thank you so much, I have been so busy trying to get everything just right online I completely forgot about the offline world. Your video is just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing again.

    Be Blessed

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