“Soon is not as good as now.” ~Seth Godin
It’s one thing to have a notebook filled with killer ideas.
It’s quite another to take those ideas and execute on them.
I’ve got more ideas than I do lifetimes, which means I have to regularly discern between an idea that needs to stay an idea and an idea that’s truly viable. I make this a regular part of my annual planning process , and I review on a quarterly basis.
Maybe you can relate?
You’ve got a great idea and you’re excited about getting it out into the world, imagining the difference it could potentially make for your business. You have a gut feeling about this one, and you’re not going to let it die on the sidelines along with all the others that seemed smart at the time, and then lost their luster.
You’re ready to begin. To get it out into the world. To move from an idea into action.
Let’s talk about how you’ll do that.
I want to give you a simple 7-step roadmap to follow to help you hit on all the key project development elements. Use this for any new project – big or small.
Step #1: IDEATION — Come up with your big idea.
This is the idea-generating stage where you’re either bouncing between a number of different ideas, or you’ve got one identified and tagged to explore.
For most entrepreneurs, this is the easy step as ideas always seem plentiful compared with the time we have to execute on them. That said, if idea generation is a challenge for you, my best advice is to step away from the computer, get out into the world (in nature or with people) and explore your curiosities beyond your business. Look for patterns in other industries or areas that you could apply to your business. Talk with people in your market to find out what they’re feeling challenged with. Eventually, the ideas will come.
Potential Roadblock: Staying stuck in the idea phase. Your ideas don’t matter and won’t have an impact if they stay here. You’ve got to move beyond idea into action. Proceed to step two.
Resource: Break Free of Your Addiction to Possibilities (podcast)
Step #2: RESEARCH — Collect, consume and gather supporting data and examples to support your big idea.
Before you invest time, money and energy into this next idea, it’s critical to understand it better. This might mean gathering research and supporting data on the topic itself (likely), and it might also mean understanding what else is out there that’s similar (so you can find your point of distinction).
Gathering supporting evidence and expertise can add validity, credibility, and depth to your idea, so look for sources that allow you to go deeper into your topic or give you a spin-off point to anchor your idea in.
Potential roadblock: Following too many data points and getting consumed in information. At some point, you have to say, “I have enough to start” and stop consuming. Staying here too long can also lead to comparison and the imposter complex. Give yourself a specific amount of research time, and then move to step three.
Step #3: VALIDATE — Validate your idea with your intended audience.
This is an important step in the project development cycle, and one many people avoid or overlook. It’s not enough to squirrel away in your creative cave for a few months developing something you just “know they’ll love” only to find out that they don’t.
At this stage of development, you’ll need to get your idea in front of the people that you want to use it. You’re looking for resonance. Does it land for them? Are they excited about it? Does it hit on a need they have, or is it just a cool thing that falls into the ‘nice to have’ category?
There are many ways to gather this information. If you have an existing audience, you can survey them or conduct a small focus group (or hop on the phone). You can have coffee with a few people, or give it a trial run with a select audience in exchange for feedback, or offer it free to a few people. Seed the idea a few times on social media and see what engagement it brings (or doesn’t).
No matter how you share it, you must. As a business owner, your responsibility is to be of service and provide value. That’s hard to do when you don’t fully understand what your community really needs from you.
Potential roadblock: You are nervous to ask for feedback, and so either avoid this step completely or ask only a handful of people mostly comprised of those who think you can do no wrong. To really understand the value in your idea, you must test it against those whom you desire to be the end consumers. Listen, ask lots of questions and then use their insights accordingly.
Step #4: MAP — Map out your plan of action and reverse-engineer your success.
You’re feeling confident that your idea has merit and is worth putting into full production. Maybe you’ve run an MVP (minimum viable product) and now have a bunch of feedback to allow you to complete the revised version. It’s time to build a project roadmap.
The best strategy at this stage is to reverse-engineer your success. This means that you work backward from your intended end point, back to the beginning of the project. This ensures that you cover all your bases, create a timeline that’s manageable and ensures you know what to do and when.
There are many online tools available to map this out (I use Asana), or you can use my free PRO Project Plan. I love starting on paper to map things out, and then if I’m working with other people on the project, I’ll transfer the information to a project manager to keep us all accountable and on track.
You can download the PRO Project Plan here.
Potential roadblock: The risk here is either not mapping out the details (basically ensuring your idea doesn’t get executed on in a timely manner), or getting overwhelmed with the details. Set a timer for a couple of 25-minute blocks (with a five-minute break in between – known as the Pomodoro Technique, and what I used to write this article), and use my PRO Project Plan to get as many details onto paper as you can.
Step #5: DEVELOP & PUBLISH — Create and then launch your new idea.
It’s time to get into worker bee mode. You’ve got your project roadmap, you have a list of tasks and timelines associated with it and you know where you’re headed. Now, you just need to put your bum in the chair and get it done.
No excuses. It’s go-time.
The best chance for success here is by allocating some chunks of time in your calendar (I call this CEO Time) dedicated ONLY to the development and creation of this project. I subscribe to the belief that if it’s not marked in my calendar, it’s just not happening. Demonstrate your commitment to seeing this project to completion by allocating time specifically for its creation.
Once it’s complete, it’s time to launch it and get it out into the world. Make sure your Project Plan includes a promotional and launch strategy to maximize its reach and results.
Potential roadblock: Not making time to actually get it done. Thousands of projects are abandoned by entrepreneurs every year because they started strong and then fizzled out, never getting the project done and shipped. Make sure your Project Plan includes key milestones and specific deadlines to keep you accountable. Hire help if you need it. Commit to shipping.
Resource: Grab a copy of my CEO Fast Track guide designed to help you find time for the work that matters most (which means that big idea!)
Step #6: EVALUATE — Reflect and review to learn key insights for next time.
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is not taking the time to evaluate how a project went. Once it’s over, they are so sick and tired of the whole thing, they simply park it aside. Sometimes it’s brought back out again for another launch, but many times, it becomes a one-trick pony never to be seen from again. This often happens when the first launch isn’t wildly successful based on the expectations of the entrepreneur.
And yet, if you’ve followed the steps above, chances are you have a really good product on your hands that just needs some care and attention to make it truly excellent. Taking time to evaluate the project will help you glean insights you can apply to the next iteration, and ensure greater success.
By evaluating the project you’ll learn if you need to strengthen the content, or the approach to the content, or the product-market fit, or the promotional strategy (or something else entirely). You can use this data and information to adjust where necessary and build continued interest for your thing.
Potential roadblock: Feeling frustrated if the results weren’t what you expected, and so you abandon the project in favour of something new and shiny and assume that the product isn’t good (vs looking for tweaks to make it great).
Resource: Use the worksheet in the PRO Project Plan to evaluate the project. Apply your insights to the next iteration.
Step #7: OPTIMIZE — Optimize for growth and ease.
At this stage, you should have a successful product on your hands. Your audience wants it. You like making it. It’s gone through a number of iterations to really make it fantastic.
Now it’s time to optimize it for growth and ease. This means that whenever possible you look for ways to systematize, streamline and possibly scale the offer so that it works faster and better. Naturally, it will depend on the nature of the project, but whether it’s a one-to-one service, a group program, a product offering or something else entirely, there are always ways to maximize what you’ve got and the way you’re bringing it to market.
This might include (but isn’t exclusive to): creating a self-study version, creating a premium version, hiring out parts of the delivery, bringing it to a new market, developing an automated sales funnel, creating systems to streamline the entire customer flow, etc.
Potential roadblock: Missing the opportunity to enhance and streamline the way you bring your project to market, thereby leaving money on the table and possibly keeping the work harder than it needs to be (potentially leading to disinterest or overwhelm).
As entrepreneurs, our primary function is to be of value to our customers, clients, and community. This relies on our ability to do more than just talk about our big ideas, but instead be able to discern the good from the bad, and then ship the good ones and bring them to market.
And that isn’t something that happens by accident. Yes, sometimes it all just ‘flows’ but if you want to be deliberate about the impact you make this year, then be intentional about the way you move from idea to action. Each step outlined here isn’t particularly complex, but they are all vital to execute on, and in the order provided.
Would you like to go further to explore how your new idea fits with your overall business plan? Register for my free Plan with Purpose 2017 email course and start to design the business future you want.