Business startup

Why it can pay to be ‘aimless’ in business

- November 2, 2016 4 MIN READ

To succeed in business, we’re told we need to know exactly where we’re going. But if ‘getting your offering just right’ is stopping you from taking action, it’s time to forget clarity about business direction and take an aimless leap.

Hands up if you don’t really know where you’re going with your business?

There’s a lot of focus these days on having firm goals and business direction. A quick perusal of quotes on Instagram turned these up:

  • “In order to succeed, you need to know where you’re going.”
  • “Goals are like magnets. They’ll attract the things that make them come true.”
  • “If you woke up without a goal, go back to sleep.”

There’s also a lot of encouragement to develop one ‘hero’ product and service. To find your micro-niche and target them with laser-like precision.

There is sense in this.

When you try to be all things to all people, you end up doing a mediocre job of many things and don’t appeal to anyone.

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But there is also a flip-side.

What do you do if you don’t yet know what your ‘one thing’ or your goal should be? I see many new business folks, agonising over these questions. They’re so concerned about getting it just right, that they’re in a state of permanent analysis paralysis.

So they do nothing.

And doing nothing in business gives you exactly zero chance of success.

Now, I am overly analytical by nature. I see three sides to every story and am very risk averse. Which means I used to let opportunities slip by because I wasn’t 100% sure they were ‘perfect’. But, after 15 years of self-employment, I’ve finally figured it out – you never know what’s going to fly until you just get out there and give it a go.

You cannot predict whether your eCourse will resonate with your intended market, or whether customers will like your widget in pink or green until people are given the option to try them out.

What’s more, how do you know whether a goal or a product is right for you, as the provider? Sometimes we invest time and money in courses or businesses, only to find out we actually don’t like running them!

So here’s some advice from me (based on learning the hard way).

If you’re trying for months to come up with your ‘ultimate’ business goal or offering and you’re still stuck … Just. Do. Something. Pick an idea you ‘kind of’ like, and get it out into the market.

The brilliant thing about our net-connected world is you can try stuff on a small scale, quickly gather feedback, and retreat if it isn’t working. Then you can tweak and re-invent and do it all over again without having to incur significant costs. Through social media, you can find willing guinea-pigs to test your ideas on. And you are guaranteed to get more honest feedback than you ever hoped for, online.

The public loved a good start-up story, and want to do business with people they can relate to. If you can share what you’re about and what you’re trying to do on social media, even before you’ve quite figured it out, you’ll bring people along for the ride. Your early followers can become your most loyal supporters.

What’s more, when you put your offering out there in all its imperfect glory, you leave the way open for the wonderful powers of happenstance.

Here’s how that panned out for me.

About three years ago, I decided to become a children’s party planner. The only problem was, I didn’t really know the industry, what clients wanted or if I’d be any good at it. So, instead of doing my usual trick of analysing the situation to death, I decided to just give it a go. I registered a business name, created a Facebook page and offered to run five kid’s parties without charging for my time.

The parties went well enough, but also highlighted everything that was wrong with my proposed offerings. So I re-packaged them and launched for real. In business quickly took off thanks to the following I’d built while posting about my journey. Those early jobs provided me with essential customer insights plus an adequate work portfolio.

That’s part one.

More recently, I hit a low point where I just didn’t know what my business goal was anymore. I needed an income stream that didn’t always require me to physically be there. But I just couldn’t figure out how to make this come about.

So I decided to pursue whatever ideas and opportunities arose. I wrote DIY party plans and put them up for sale on Etsy. I moonlighted as an instructor for a business which provides holiday workshops in schools. And I guest-blogged, unpaid, on authoritative party sites, along with random business and parenting sites.

Things started happening. I spotted hot trends amongst kids and wrote party plans for those. They gave my Etsy store a huge boost and it now provides a decent passive income. I turned these party plans into workshop ideas and licenced them to the school incursions business. They were a big hit, and we now have a fabulous partnership where I am the chief ‘fun workshop’ creator and trainer of instructors.

And from the blogging I landed a side job as a copywriter.

Right now, I am happily busy doing my different jobs and, collectively, they provide the income and satisfaction I was hoping for. They all stemmed from my initial party work but were never a part of my goals when I set out to become a party planner.

That’s the power of just getting out there and doing whatever. It may not be right; it may lead to nothing. But alternatively, it may lead to something unexpectedly perfect.