The other day I had to opportunity to be interviewed live by Anita Campbell and Steve Rucinski as a featured guest on Small Business Trends Radio. I’ve always been a fan of Anita’s Small Business Trends website and many of BizSugar’s top-voted articles come from her blog, so I felt honored to be invited on the show.
Typically, guests will give advice based on their industry knowledge and then end the show by talking a bit about their company or product. Of course, BizSugar doesn’t lend itself as easily to industry knowledge – there’s only so much you can say about submitting article links or posting comments. And while there’s a lot of advice out there about how to use social news and bookmarking sites to promote your products or service, most just offer hints on how to game the systems.
Therefore, because I’m also a marketing consultant and I’ve started several businesses over the years, I decided to spend the bulk of my time talking about overcoming the pitfalls of starting a business. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I soon found myself wishing I was in the direct mail business talking about five ways to save on postage.
You see, even though I knew my subject matter, it’s not the type of stuff I talk to my clients about on a daily basis – or even on a yearly basis for that matter. The information was lodged in the back of my brain, and I soon found myself with a tight throat – barely uttering words (at least it felt that way to me). I was a bit surprised because I’ve never really had a problem talking to large groups of people, much less a podcast where I didn’t have an audience watching me.
Why do I mention this? Many people have a fear of public speaking and if this was my first speech ever, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer death over speaking again. The problem was that I wasn’t prepared. Oh sure, I practiced what I knew I’d be talking about a couple of times, but it wasn’t enough to make me comfortable with the material – even though it was from my own experiences!
I was reading in Men’s Health magazine about how Navy SEALs practice their maneuvers over and over again to overcome the body’s natural tendency to lock up from fear. As one SEAL explains, “We push ourselves so far that we reach that level of fear where we think we’re going to die. You’ve done it a thousand times, so when you do it for real, there’s less fear. You go and do it just like you trained for it.”
And to think, all I needed to do was practice my material a few more times.
One of the funnier moments in the interview for me was when, after I was on my soapbox regarding the importance of having a business plan, Steve asks me, “So did you create a business plan before you launched BizSugar?”
I explained that BizSugar was more of an experiment than a business I was expecting to get rich off of. Still, I know I probably sounded like a hypocrite, so I’ll explain a little more here.
BizSugar is based on open source software, so I knew that I could start the Website for under $10,000 and within 30 days (after four months of working on the Website, I realized I’d already made one miscalculation). Plus, it was synergistic with my existing businesses, so it was more like a project than a whole new business (or at least that’s what I told myself).
What I couldn’t figure out was whether there was really a market for my idea. There were somewhat similar sites that I could analyze, but, at the time I decided to try this, there wasn’t anything quite like it. Building pro forma statements was pretty much impossible. So, for me, the cheapest way, in both time and money, to find out if this was a good idea was to use the strategy “ready, fire, aim.”
However, if it’s your first business or a risky endeavor, I’d still recommend a business plan.