Hi, I’m Alexis Kingsbury, the founder of the Parentpreneur Accelerator.
I’m a serial entrepreneur, having built successful startups in a variety of areas, including an online software business (Spidergap.com) that provides me with financial freedom.
I’m also a lucky husband and proud dad, and now I help other ‘Parentpreneurs’ like me to achieve their dreams of having successful businesses, making a difference in the world, and spending time with the people they love.
In this article I explain why having a ‘great’ idea for a startup could lead to a world of pain and destroy your family life. I reveal the steps you can use to spend valuable time with your family and build a successful business at the same time.
I hope you find it useful, and if so, please join me (and say hello!) at the Parentpreneur Accelerator Community on Facebook.
The “Great Idea” myth
Successful entrepreneurs have lots of ideas…some are bad, some good and some great!
Having worked with 100s of startups, in my experience I have found that the ones that begin with a ‘great’ idea are most likely to fail. This is due to them holding that emotional connection to their ‘great idea’ too tightly, and as a result they do not test it properly. Yet there is a myth shared by many that “before you can launch a startup, you need a great idea”.
This is not true… In fact, I’ve found it to be the exact opposite.
For example, when I first met David he was working as a solicitor in his own law practice:
In an effort to stop ‘trading his time for money’, David had a ‘great idea’ to set up a new startup helping other businesses improve their cash-flow by providing a training course on how to chase payment. He wrote and published an excellent book to attract leads, recorded the training videos, built a training portal, paid for a year of hosting, set up the sales pages, scheduled sales webinars, and invested in Facebook ads and exhibition stands.
But after months of working on his ‘great idea’, he had nothing to show for it. He’d wasted over $15,000 and 14 months that could have been spent with his wife and daughter (or earning money through his law practice) and he knew it.
He felt depressed and frustrated, and worked out that if he couldn’t rekindle some legal work in the next couple of months he’d need to close his law practice and get a job.
Fortunately in David’s case, we worked together to turn things around before he lost everything.
Unfortunately, I regularly meet other Parentpreneurs who have already wasted the most important years of their kids’ childhood, neglected their spouse to the point of divorce, or worse.
When I first met Sophie, she was feeling the pressure:
“Family pressures over the previous few months had taken a lot of my time. I felt less focused and less sure of my direction. The business I was creating meant money would take forever to come in, and after 18 months of working on the business, I didn’t have enough money left to ‘buy the audience’. I wanted to make it profitable and make it more fun for me and my partners.
When working by yourself you need someone to bounce off and a structure to work to. Otherwise it is so easy to go off on a total tangent, and end up in a place that is so different in terms of what you wanted in terms of the time and money you are spending on the business, and what you wanted to achieve.
Through Alexis’ help, I’ve changed my business model, and built a solution for a customer that is real and I have proof that it works – I’ve had it validated by 10 of my ideal customers who have paid for my service. I feel I now have a really strong foundation on which to build my business, which is really exciting!”
Sophie initially felt she had a ‘great idea’, and was reluctant to change it for 18 long months. She could have easily run out of money and would have had to give up on her dream.
That’s why having a ‘good’ idea is actually a better approach.
This applies to all entrepreneurs… let’s take YouTube as an example…
The co-founders were very smart, experienced, entrepreneurs, having recently sold their business (PayPal) to eBay.
Their “good idea” was to provide a dating site that used video rather than pictures to match couples. They created their video dating site and called it ‘Tune in Hook up’ and were initially convinced it was going to be a winner but quickly saw that as a dating site, it was failing. They even tried paying women $20 to post videos onto the site. No one took them up on the offer.
However, they spotted that users were sharing links to funny videos of potential matches, and even used the site to upload and share their own (non-dating) videos. The founders were open to changing their idea, and later re-launched as YouTube.
Luckily they had a pile of cash from their $1bn exit at PayPal to be able to sit out the wait!!
My software business, Spidergap, had a similar experience:
When my co-founder and I launched Spidergap, we started as a broad survey tool, catering to a range of customers and problems. However, despite a big launch party and lots of positive feedback, we had 18 months of tiny revenues. I nearly lost my wife due to my relentless focus on trying to turn things around, and at several points we nearly had to close the business.
Fortunately we were able to ‘pivot’ to focus on a more specific need for our product. After a few more changes, we were able to grow the business significantly. Spidergap is now the top rated 360-feedback tool, and is used in 134+ countries by some very well known companies (Shopify, Canva, Britvic, Sony, Pandora, New Look, Fitness First, Cisco, Autodesk etc.). Most importantly, it now makes enough profit to give my co-founder and me freedom to spend as much time with our families as we want.
However, we were only able to survive long enough because I was bringing in enough income through consulting projects on the side to enable us to keep going for the 4 years (!) it took before we got off the ground.
‘Feeling your way’ in this way can work… but often takes a lot of time, has no guarantee of success, and can cost a lot of money.
If you are a Parentpreneur, your time spent away from your family is precious, and you probably don’t want to spend the next 3 years on a business before finding out it won’t work. So instead, you need to be able to be more confident that you’ll be successful.
Both ‘good’ and ‘great’ ideas can fail. You need a better approach.
So instead of coming up with your ‘great’ idea, what should you do?
You need to start by understanding these 3 milestones:
Too many entrepreneurs aim straight for “Financial Freedom”.
They attempt to use ‘scalable’ methods like paying for Facebook ads, writing a book, creating an app etc. so that they can be the all-singing, all-dancing business before anything else.
In reality…what you really need to do is just get your first customer and sale! This will give you validation that your offering solves a real problem that real customers are prepared to hand over hard cash for! Without a customer, a business is worth nothing.
Once you have your customer, you can then move onto the next step – generating a profit, which will allow you to pay your bills and develop your business.
Of course, this should be obvious…
There is no logic in spending months and $1,000s developing an all-singing, all-dancing business, getting funding, hiring people, and paying for advertising if you don’t even know if you have an offering that people will pay for.
Unfortunately, many Parentpreneurs never think about this. Instead, they end up damaging (or completely losing) what matters most… their families and/or their health.
But how do you get that first sale?
There is so much confusion amongst entrepreneurs on how to get ‘validation’ or ‘traction’ for their startup. They believe they need landing pages, Facebook ads, signup forms, ‘MVPs’ and ‘beta’ products.
This isn’t true and puts the focus on all the wrong things.
I have developed a 6-step approach that ensures you create a successful business without wasting months or $1,000s. I’ve used this approach myself, and have helped many other Parentpreneurs to achieve success using these steps too.
You might wonder what makes this approach so different. So, I asked Rashmi, one of the amazing Parentpreneurs I’ve been fortunate to work with, to explain how this approach helped her…
“After attending London Business School and Google Campus for Mums, I thought I’d know how to create a successful business. Yet after 6 months of slow progress in my startup, I felt exhausted. I wasn’t getting time with my new baby and my health was deteriorating.
Then I came across Alexis.
I found his 6-step approach to be so incredibly valuable. It didn’t start with a ‘great idea’ or a customer need or even a target customer. It started with me, what I wanted from life, and my purpose. It was so refreshing. He made me see what I had been missing, and immediately change how I was spending my time. 6 weeks later, I had my first sales, which was something I’d been unable to achieve in the previous 6 months!
Following the steps has literally saved me from burn-out, given me time with my children, and propelled my business in the right direction.”
– Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Cheeky Yogi
The 6 steps to your first sale
So, here are the 6 steps you need to take (in this order) to get your first sale:
- Design your life – Why do you want a business? How do you want to spend your time? When will you spend time with your family? When will you exercise? How will you protect 6+ hours of focused time per week to work on your startup?
- Find your “why” – What broad groups of people do you want to help and what are you truly passionate about doing for them? Why do you want to help them? Why will you be excited to work on this business?
- Identify your ideal customer – Who exactly do you most care about helping? Who do you know that would be an ideal customer? What about them really matters? Who else can you find that fits the profile? (Find at least 10 people)
- Find a real problem to solve – What are your ideal customer’s goals and frustrations? What problem causes a real pain for your ideal customer? Why don’t existing solutions solve this problem already?
- Match a solution to the problem – What does the solution need to do to solve the problem? How will your solution overcome the limitations of existing solutions? What will make your solution 100x better than alternatives?
- Get pre-orders – What price are your ideal customers willing to pay? How can you afford to deliver the solution at that price? How many people will pre-order from you based on what you plan to give them?
A word of warning: Do not skip a step!
I know you want to move fast. But, if you skip a step you’ll find that:
- You aren’t able to complete the step properly
- When you find that customers aren’t willing to buy the thing you want to sell, you have to go all the way ‘back to the drawing board’, rather than just go back one step.
What to do next
To learn more about the 6 steps and get help making progress through them, get this free checklist and video to guide you along the way.
To get support along your journey as a Parentpreneur, join our Parentpreneur Accelerator Community on Facebook. You’ll get access to tips, advice, and support from me and our other Parentpreneurs. When you join, please post in the group to let me know what you thought about the article (and feel free to share it with your friends).