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Ask the Expert -- Resolutions: Diet, hit gym, quit smoking, start company

By MARK KAPLAN
Special to the Union Leader

January 07. 2018 9:57PM




MARK KAPLAN

You’ve made it through the holidays. It’s been weeks of parties, drinks, big meals, binge-watching shows and contemplating the New Year. What do we naturally do in response? Time for New Year resolutions.

Perhaps working on a startup company has been on your resolutions list for a number of years, as is often the case for many resolutions. Somehow we often find ourselves making the same, or very similar, resolutions year after year. It is easy to make them, but accomplishing them successfully is something else entirely.

The lack of success can most often be attributed to lack of planning and persistence. Go to the gym right after the new year comes, and it’s packed. Go to the gym just a few short months later, and the crowd is gone. We have the best of intentions, but follow-through suffers. Other things “get in the way.”

Breaking out of that pattern and achieving resolutions can be made easier by following a few useful steps:

• Set your large long-term goal.

• Determine and set short-term goals, creating milestones that each demonstrate progress toward the long-term goal.

• Set a timeline for both the long- and short-term goals.

• Set a pattern of behavior to achieve the short-term goals.

• And finally, begin that behavior and take action.

By slicing a big goal into a series of smaller steps, and going after those steps, we feel the benefits of reward that push us to the next step. A series of successful accomplishments leads to the ultimate objective. Whether a diet, gym or a resolution to start a company, an approach like this improves the likelihood of success.

Let’s take an overly simplified look at how these concepts fit into what might be your annual resolution to start your own company. We’ll begin by giving ourselves until this time next year to accomplish our big goal, which will be to have a product purchased by our first customer.

The short term goals to accomplish that include:

• Concept/idea: What problem is it that we are solving and what is our solution.

• Customer development: Interviewing target market customers for feedback on our solution, iterating based upon the feedback and conducting more interviews.

• Development of a minimum viable product (MVP) for testing with target customers.

• Based upon feedback, refinement of MVP into product that can be taken to market and sold.

In setting a timeline for our short-term goals, we need to look at each activity and assess how much time we believe we’ll need to spend. It is important to remember that as brilliant as we believe our ideas are, we really don’t know if we’re onto something without customer feedback. In understanding what the customer values, and changing our product to meet their needs, we can create a valuable product and company.

On that basis, we’ll give ourselves a month to come up with a solution about which we’ll seek feedback. We’ll give ourselves four months for customer development and iteration, followed by two months to develop an MVP, three months for feedback and refinement, and then two months for final product finishing and selling to the first customer. Within each of these periods, our calendar should reflect the daily and weekly work we need to do to succeed in each short-term goal. This process will set our game plan for the year.

With the game plan set and our short- and long-term goals in mind, we face the most difficult aspect of our challenge: behavioral change. We must determine when we are going to work on our startup each day or week and focus our efforts.

If possible, working on the startup every day is the best path, as frequency both keeps us focused and interested and also makes the work become a normal part of our daily lives. If that isn’t possible then trying to normalize our startup work on specific days of the week and times of day will help us in the same way. After all, we know from years of having the same resolutions fall by the wayside that it is often due to “not finding the time.” And what we really know is that it is about not “making the time.”

So, if founding a startup is one of your resolutions for 2018, make time to participate in Alpha Loft events focused on startup education. There is always something to learn, and Alpha Loft is here in New Hampshire to be a resource to you: the startup founder.

.

Mark Kaplan is CEO of Alpha Loft, a startup incubator with offices in Manchester and Portmouth. He has 30 years of executive, financial, venture capital and investment industry experience. Reach him at mark@alphaloft.org.


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