If you've followed previous posts then this could possibly be the most important outside of rule #1
To back track a tad, as an ambassador of StartUp Australia and as founder of Ingenious Oz over the last couple of years, I've been in the privileged position to interview some very clever people - both business owners and entrepreneurs.
Like you, I’ve listened to, watched and read a myriad of guru’s and experts on entrepreneurship and business growth, and yes some have interesting insights to offer, but let’s face there is no substitute for the real thing. If you are going to learn how to grow and improve your business then it makes sense to learn from those who have successfully done it and done it well.
As I interviewed these outstanding minds a pattern started to appear. Success for them wasn't about who they were or what their background was - it was about what they did. There were certain actions each took, (hence the 4 rules). It's as if all these successful people got together and discussed what to do to build great businesses. Looking holistically it became obvious to me that there were 4 key actions that all others fit into.
And Rule# 4 could be the biggest lesson of all and possibly the toughest. - ‘If it's a dog it's a dog!'
What that means is that after you've found a problem to solve or discovered what 'they really want' and then have a brilliant idea to address it (rule#1) and you’ve then acted on it (rule#2) and tested and measured it every step of the way to decide whether or not it's viable (rule#3) you then need to either get rid of it or figure out how to improve it. In other words Rule#4 is to either delete or improve it.
Successful people and businesses know that not everything they do is going to work and they are not precious about it. Sure passion comes into the equation but if the numbers don’t add up – it goes.
We've all had so called brilliants idea only to find at the end of the day they were dogs! Sadly, because we have so much time, effort and money invested in them we find it almost impossible to let them go. We cling to our ideas even when they don't work. The world is full of businesses holding onto products and services that are dogs, trying desperately to morph them into unicorns. (Just so you know I am a big dog lover, in fact I own two but they are the fluffy tail wagging kind and not the metaphoric kind. Dog's aren't great ideas but they will get your slippers).
Let's get one thing straight. If your idea isn't making you money, or driving your business forward, then kill it off and kill it quickly. That's why rule #2 (act on it) and rule #3 (test and measure everything) exist because the only way you will know if it's a dog or not is by getting it out there and monitoring it. And if it isn't doing what you wanted you need to be brave enough to let it go.
Important! Like everything this is so simple it's dangerous. It's dangerous because being blatantly obvious we may miss or ignore it. And we do so at our own peril.
On a happier note of course, if your idea is working (maybe not the extent you originally wanted but is showing the right signs) then this rule is extraordinarily useful because it also says that if it’s not a dog then you need to improve it. Once an idea is out in the world the game becomes how to improve it and how to make it the very best. Not once but constantly. And that’s important because otherwise complacency sets in and complacency leads to failure.
For me this is no better demonstrated than by real estate entrepreneur John McGrath who started his business with an enormous vision - ‘to be the best real estate company in the world’. To make that happen he focused on doing everything better in every way. He still does, which was evident when he said to me ‘I recognise incremental improvement on a daily basis’.
So today… take stock, be honest and ask 'are your ideas working, are they viable, or are they dogs?’ If they are dogs and can't be fixed then delete them and if they are viable and useful then improve them.
By the way thanks to Adam Hudson of Firestarter Videos for the analogy