Run Your Business Like a General
The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul. - David O. McKay
This tree-hugging pacifist has joined the military.
Not literally, of course. The army wouldn't want my bad eyes, bad back, and (as soon as the shooting starts) bad attitude. But I've been applying some military discipline to my business lately. Perhaps you'll be inspired to do the same.
My 3-Year Boot Camp
What needed changing? I've realized that one of my primary challenges as a business owner is perfectionism. Case in point: It took me over three years to create my Strum & Sing in 60 Days online guitar course. The video shoot took so long, I visibly age from lesson to lesson. Not an inspiring visual for beginning guitarists hoping to make quick progress.
Why did it take so long? I like to pin the blame on my three boys, who were all born over the span of the course creation. But honestly, I was hell-bent on doing it right. I left no tip unshared, no helpful camera angle unfilmed, no obscure chord transition pitfall un-troubleshot.
And behind that perfectionism was fear. I had very little online marketing experience or support, so I was scared I might not be able to sell my course. I compensated by making it as close to perfect as possible.
It was a 3-year lesson in how not to make a product. While I'm proud of how the course turned out, and my online students love it, some simple advice would have made the process much quicker, and the finished product even better. Since the launch of Strum & Sing in 60 Days, I’ve discovered a motherlode of online marketing resources, mostly podcasts by folks like Amy Porterfield and Pat Flynn, and one common theme is the need for business owners to act quickly and decisively. In the words of the U.S. General George S. Patton, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
These marketing gurus recommend launching a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) at first--a bare-bones version that will get you talking to customers as soon as possible. Revising the MVP based on this customer feedback is more efficient and makes for a better finished product than trying to create My Amazing Masterpiece version 1.0 in isolation.
I took the MVP concept to its logical extreme this year by pre-selling my new course, Totally Awesome Recitals, to a small group of beta-testers before I even started content creation. A few years ago I would have been too anxious to ask customers to prepay $130 for no more than a twinkle in my eye.
Hampton's Army: Now Recruiting
This decisive attitude isn't just for product developers and the military. Most of us music teachers, for example, have had plenty of musical training, but little or no business training. When we're confronted with business decisions, we're often deer in the headlights, paralyzed by uncertainty.
If you find yourself stalling because of uncertainty, I invite you to join my little army of courageous, decisive small business owners. I already got the ball rolling by violently executing my long hair.
Don't worry, my long-tressed brethren, I won't ask you to do the same. I cut my hair because it was a huge pain. It looked OK in the morning, when I work alone. By the time I'd start teaching, it was limp and stringy. And I was sick of fussing with it before I went on camera.
And so even though I was worried about scaring my children, and shocking my students, and dismaying my wife (as you can see, I had reason to worry), and looking like Mick Jagger in some instructional videos and one of General Patton’s cadets in others, I decided to stop worrying and just do it.
So what changes should you be making? What are you waiting for? On the double, soldier!