We spend a lot of time here coaching people on how to get the outcomes they want. And in some cases, the outcome is a sale of a product or a service. But in many cases, the outcome is the “sale” of an idea or a plan. The vast majority of persuasion that happens in the workplace concerns the building of alignment and persuading support for an idea or a strategy or a solution of some kind.
And whenever I am discussing this with a client, I always think about my own experience launching The Latimer Group in 2002. We are rapidly approaching our 15th year anniversary, and lately I have been thinking about some of the big lessons learned along the way.
When you are trying to build momentum around your idea or your plan, there are a few obvious things that must be in order… the idea has to be well organized, it needs to solve a critical problem and/or leverage a big opportunity, and you need to have, at least, some semblance of a business plan.
Every book, class or workshop on starting a business will cover these obvious points.
But when you are trying to build momentum around your idea, there are a few other, perhaps less obvious, things that must also be in order:
- Your life must be able to support your effort. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have time to nurture it and see it through, it won’t happen. I hear lots of stories about people trying to create a startup business “on the side” of their regular gig. In my experience, this rarely works out well for the regular gig, the side gig or both.
- The people closest to you have to be on board. You are going to need support along the way, either from your closest colleagues, or in many cases, the people in your personal life. In The Latimer Group example, the unsung hero of the Latimer story is my wife Emily. At any one of several points along the way, she could have gotten tired of the entrepreneurial life style (the unknown income next month… the 24-7 obsession…) and said “go get a real job.” I would have had a hard time ignoring that.
- You have to be patient. I remember a key piece of advice I got in 2002. I was speaking to a then-member of our Board of Advisors, and I said “I am going to give this 18-24 months, and if it isn’t working, I will try something else.” And the advisor laughed at me. “Not nearly enough time,” she said. You have to give things time to germinate.
- You have to refine the idea along the way. Show some intellectual agility. As you proceed, you will undoubtedly learn a few things, and you have to be willing to adjust. In our case, when I launched this the business idea was “presentation skills training.” But over time, we realized that was too narrow, and within a couple of years, we settled on the idea of “verbal persuasion.” Persuasion is not only a business-critical skill, but it is also something companies are willing to invest in.
- You have to have faith. There are a thousand reasons why your idea might die. But if you really believe it is a good idea, then you need to remain faithful to it. If you lack faith, why should I have faith?
The idea can be almost anything… maybe you have an idea for a better method of production, or a better sales plan, or a more refined organizational chart. Or, in my case, the idea might be a business idea that has changed the course of my family’s life. Regardless, you need more than just a business plan to maximize your chances of success.