Ideas make the world go round. Without flashes of inspiration, we wouldn’t have the wheel, the lightbulb, or the Internet. A big idea is at the core of every successful business. But an idea can’t accomplish anything without a structure built around it. If you’re an early-stage startup looking to scale your business, you need more than one big idea to succeed. Each idea layers on top of the next, and pretty soon you have a towering skyscraper that can withstand any storm.
My goal is to give you the blueprint for that tower. I created the Beyond Formation Blueprint using the big ideas I landed upon during my 30 years as a digital leader, executive, advisor, investor, and change agent at the intersection of finance and technology. The Blueprint uses Agile-inspired thinking to break down your most important tasks into a focused and systemized approach that will yield the biggest payoff.
Anyone can follow this blueprint to structure their business for maximum valuation. Whether you want to scale your business to sell or plan to run it yourself for decades, my big ideas can help you build your business on level ground and then scale up — fast. When others are forced to tear down what they’ve built and start again on the ground floor, your business will have the steel frame to keep growing higher and higher.
These are five of my big ideas to help you build your business right, right from the start.
Big Idea #1: A business is more than just a good idea.
No matter how great your idea is — and we’re pretty sure yours is outstanding — you’re going to need money to get things off the ground. Maybe you have savings or support from family and friends. But if you want to scale your business and reach your long-term business goals, then you’re going to need investors.
Angel investors and venture capital firms have the funding you’re looking for. But these experts can recognize when a business is built on air. They aren’t swayed by charm or passion. Instead, they are checking off boxes on strategy, product, team, go-to-market, funding, and operations.
In short, investors do their due diligence. So you need to make sure to do yours. The Beyond Formation Blueprint can help you answer their questions with ease. When you’ve built your business plan down to the last nut and bolt, your great idea will finally attract the money it deserves.
Big Idea #2: Entrepreneurship is organization.
There are millions of businesses out there — all offering products and services in their own unique way. But no matter what they sell, the core building blocks of every successful business are the same.
Success is built on structure. I call that structure the Beyond Formation Framework.
The foundation of your skyscraper is business operations. That includes IT, human resources, legal, and finance. Next come the framing posts, the culture that emerges from your mission, vision, voice, and values.
Once business operations, culture, and strategy are set, early-stage startups can work on the building blocks that make up the floors of the tower — where all the fun stuff happens. These blocks include your team, product, funding, and go-to-market strategy. But to put them in place, you need scaffolding. Agile methodology helps you reach up high enough — and fast enough — to lay these building blocks effectively to scale your business.
Big Idea #3: Operating expenses are investments.
Until a few years ago, I worked in corporate tech. Throughout my moves from coastal Maine to Manhattan to California and from the trading floor to the C-suite, I focused on developing solutions and engineering the products, platforms, infrastructure, and processes that still power Fortune 500 fintech firms all over the world.
Many CEOs rarely see IT as a profit center; however, the salespeople and money managers at these firms certainly performed better because of my work.
It wasn’t personal. Many CEOs at non-tech firms see IT as costing, not making, money. I was part of what is often referred to as the collective “back office” — human resources, legal, regulatory, and environmental services. The shadowy, dark world behind the scenes of any business.
For your scale your business, you must see the light. Take it from a very successful technologist: operating endeavors are some of the smartest investments a startup will ever make. They pay off by putting the business on a firm foundation for rapid growth.
You might not have the funding for lawyers, accountants, and IT experts yet. But you’ll get there. As you start to plan and pay for these operations, you’ll see that they save you money. They make you money. And they can and will literally save your startup.
Big Idea #4: Leadership is a skill, and skills can be learned.
At the start, every founder’s job description is “whatever it takes.” Test prototypes. Answer phones. Write pitch decks. In the early stages, you can — and should — do anything and everything to move up your startup.
But entrepreneurs are architects, not general contractors, electricians, or plumbers. To maximize your valuation, turn these tasks over to talented experts as soon as you possibly can (or can afford to) and focus on your real job: a vision and a plan for how to achieve it.
Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a leader, or as an architect of anything, you can teach yourself to be one. Cultivate your leadership skills, copy successful CEOs you admire, and stay focused on your goals. When you start acting like an architect — putting together blueprints, answering questions, managing teams, solving problems — your business will have the leadership it needs to grow.
Big Idea #5: Successful businesses are always under construction.
You probably have big goals for your business. And, hopefully, there will come a day when you reach them. But by then, you’ll have new goals. Another floor for your skyscraper. Windows to replace throughout the building. Rooms to upgrade and extensions to add. Your business is never finished. And that’s a good thing.
Failing to pivot or adapt is one of the top three reasons that businesses fail. You can’t protect yourself from change; you have to move with it. Agile principles are the key to adaptation. They create a strong, durable scaffolding capable of supporting continuous and constructive change.
If you use Agile processes from the very start, you’ll have the tools you need to adapt to a changing market and world. Your business will be there, still under construction, decades from now — a testament to your vision and commitment as an entrepreneur.
Our holistic, hands-on, Agile approach breaks down building, running, and funding a world-class business into a series of actionable steps and results-oriented strategies. It’s time to get to work!