In this episode, Scott and Robert are going to talk about 5 ways to tackle big ideas.
Robert: In this episode, Scott and I are going to be talking about five ways that you can tackle big ideas. This is the Stretch Goals Podcast, where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Robert Dickerson.
Scott: And I’m Scott Davis.
Robert: So you want to scale your business, you want to have an impact on the world, at least I do, right, with your idea. The question is, how do you take a small team with a defined budget and really implement that change and think bigger? So that’s something, Scott, I’ve been thinking about a lot is like, how can I take Mapout to the next level? How can I tackle larger ideas that I’m trying to do right now? And when I was first starting out, I was talking to my friend Wayne, and he was … I was telling him about my idea. I guess this was about a year and a half ago, and he told me, he’s like, “Rob, you need to think bigger. You need to think on a broader scale,” and I think it was really good advice, because I was getting really focused on specific niches.
And I know we talked about that in a previous episode, is, or maybe it’s actually coming up, defining your core strategy, where we talk about thinking about and just focusing on a particular thing, but this is a little bit broader than that, in that you want to think about how your business idea and your products affect a larger audience. Have you thought about this at all, Scott, when you’re building apps, how you can tackle like larger ideas with, say, a small team?
Scott: So, yeah, the big thing for me is, I do that every day, is really just wrapping my head around what that idea is, or what you’re trying to achieve, and then how to make that manageable for a smaller team. And I think it’s a case-by-case basis, like you’re talking about like long-term vision of a product, you’re talking about long-term vision of a feature. There’s a lot of different things you have to look at and ask yourself, so I’m curious as to why this has come up for you. Is this a product vision, or is this features, or what is it specifically you’re focusing on?
Robert: Well, I think it was more of a company vision and what we’re trying to accomplish with Mapout. I mean, I want to be able to use education to empower people, both students learning things, but also patients learning about their conditions and just creating a better life for themselves, so it’s not just about developing a mobile app or developing a video or something that helps people. It’s about a larger strategy of, how do I really use technology and the platform that I’m creating to have a larger impact on a larger number of people to really help them have a better life, to use education to give them new opportunities that they might not have have and do that through technology? I mean, sometimes I guess I have a lens of technology, just because that’s my interest, that’s my background, but how can it have a bigger effect, beyond just the technology aspect of it, to help people, and then how do you take that vision, that larger vision, and distill that down into a product that you can scale, that you can grow, to achieve that vision?
So that’s kind of where this all fits in, is … And then as I’m thinking about that vision, thinking about, “Well, how do I do that? How do I take the product that I’m developing now and really scale it out there when I’m limited on time, limited on resources?” And everyone that has a business, right? We all have 24 hours in a day. We all have a certain budget and certain amount of money that we can spend, so it’s both tackling that idea and getting people to buy into that idea.
Robert: So I thought about five different ways that you can tackle those big ideas, and the first one was to start small, one person at a time, so don’t try to tackle some huge audience. Start small, individually, by talking to people about your idea, and getting them to buy in, one at a time. It’s the same thing that we try to do with this podcast, right, is we try to bring in one listener at a time, and to help them, right, and to focus on them, and to focus on you, our listeners, how can we help each one of you? And then over time, you start reaching a larger audience, you start growing, but it just takes time, and it’s not something that you can do immediately.
Scott: Well, it’s also interesting you say that, because it’s something that, in our last episode, Sid talked about, Sid Parihar, the Apple designer, he talked about, when you try to design a feature or a product for millions of people, it’s often too difficult to even comprehend, so Sid’s strategy was that he would design, he would print out a picture of some random person and put it in his cubicle, and he would look at that face every day. He was designing for one person, and I think that’s basically what you’re saying here, too, is, don’t try to solve everything, but try to solve it for at least one person, and then another person, and then another person, as they come up, so, yeah, I like that. I think it’s a good concept.
Robert: Right. It’s that persona of who your audience is, and I’ve found those personas by talking to real people, so I kind of use real people that I’ve talked to, and I understand their problems, and it resonates really well with what I’m trying to do with my business, so I really use them, and actually, I’m creating an ebook now around training for businesses, and I use a couple of people that I talk to as my personas for that, because it just … It was really easy for me to start writing, creating content, when I was thinking about that specific individual. How do I help them, specifically?
Robert: And I feel like if you do that, there’s a larger audience that will also, that will resonate with as well.
Scott: Absolutely. Yeah, you don’t need to be so broad initially, when you’re working on new ideas, but if you take those piece by piece, I think eventually you end up with a much larger product in the end.
Robert: So the second idea is, bottom-up instead of top-down, so thinking about, I guess maybe it’s a little bit of grassroots, but thinking about how you can approach people maybe not at the top of the organization, but at the bottom, or within management of the organization, or people that have pull within an organization, if you’re, say, trying to sell into them or getting them to buy in, because the people at the top don’t really have a lot of time to think about some of these ideas, or maybe for them to pitch to you, so think about starting small and working your way up.
If we think about something like Slack, right, in order for them to get into the enterprise, they went to individual users and got them to buy in, and then that kind of made its way into the enterprise for kind of team communication software, so if you think about that, is, how do you work from the bottom-up instead of maybe approaching the high, maybe these thought leaders or something like that, and try to get them to promote your ideas?
Scott: Yeah, I was going to say Slack is the perfect example of that approach, right? The corporate leadership doesn’t understand that people need to be able to communicate effectively through some digital means, or have a place to store it all, so the users, the workers, were the ones who brought that up the food chain, so yeah, it’s been successful. It’s the perfect example of that bottom-up instead of top-down approach.
Robert: And another bullet point I had to this is, don’t ask for permission. A lot of times, you might be reaching out to people that, especially if you’re going into a new space, I’ve seen this a lot, myself, is if you’re going in a new space, you want to get feedback from those people, you want to get them to buy into your idea, but you don’t always need that permission, right? Push forward and go ahead, and push your ideas forward and actually implement them without asking for permission, if you can do it, and see what happens, right? Get that feedback from there and try things, right? Experiment. I think that’s really important.
Scott: Yeah, like the … There’s a team in Richmond, Virginia, that developed the Tumblr app, and Tumblr didn’t have a mobile app at the time. They just had the website, and these guys went and just built it themselves. They’re like, “Hey, this is something we want to use, and we’re just going to go build this,” and when they did, Tumblr acquired them. It’s the same type of idea. It’s like, they didn’t ask for permission. They just went ahead and did it.
Robert: Right, because if they had asked for permission, they probably wouldn’t have gotten it, right? I mean, if they had …
Scott: Yeah, exactly.
Robert: … tried to sell it to them to start, I mean, yeah, so they just went ahead and did it, so that’s a really good example of going forward and doing that. So the third way to tackle big ideas is to accept feedback from people, but also to stay confident in your ideas and your vision, and this is something that, as I’ve been talking to more and more people, you get all kinds of different feedback on your vision, on your products, what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing, and so sometimes it can be hard to stay true to what your thoughts are, what the motivation was to start your business. So I think it’s important to accept that feedback and to think about it, and if you start getting consistently the same feedback, that’s maybe more of an indicator that there’s a particular …
Robert: … market there, there’s a particular way that maybe you should think about going, but also to stay really confident in what you’re trying to do, especially if you’re pitching to investors, if you’re pitching to potential clients. Everybody’s going to have a different idea of what you’re trying to do.
Scott: Yeah. Confident, but not blind to the feedback. The other thing is, is everybody’s got feedback. We all know that. It’s really how to listen to that feedback in a constructive way and apply it to your product without completely changing the vision, unless it actually needs a pivot. See, there’s a balance there, but yeah, getting feedback is always helpful, especially if you’re talking to someone who could potentially be a target customer versus just a friend or a family member who’s reviewing something for you.
Robert: Yeah, I think it can be a fine line there between pivoting and moving forward with trying to tackle your big idea, right, so …
Robert: You’re trying to achieve this larger vision. You want to make sure that you don’t get derailed by feedback as you’re kind of making your way towards that vision, so the fourth thing is, I guess that ties into that, is to be persistent, so that can kind of go with everything within your business, so if you’re doing sales, right, you want to make sure that you continue to follow up with people, continuing to be persistent about approaching sales targets, continue to be persistent about developing features that kind of tackle this larger idea, and maybe also, as you’re thinking about your big idea, kind of plan it out into stages of, maybe this year how you’re going to tackle this, the next year how you’re going to tackle that, and think about it as you’re being persistent on a larger scale of, “What I do today is part of a bigger picture over the next couple years for me to achieve this vision.”
It’s not going to happen overnight, right? I think that’s something that I’ve learned over the years, is just, it takes time to do these things, and especially if you’re trying to tackle something big.
Scott: Yeah. I mean, we talked about this in several other episodes. You got to have that drive to push it forward so that applies to being assertive and persistent. Without those things, you’re not going to get there, and that applies to tackling big ideas or just life in general. You got to be persistent, you keep at it.
Robert: So the fifth way that you can tackle big ideas is to tell your story, and so the idea behind this was that you want to have a great story that you can tell the people about what you’re trying to do, the vision that you’re trying to achieve, because a lot of times, people are buying … They’re buying into you, but they’re also buying into your story and your vision of what you’re trying to achieve, and so if you create that story and that vision that encompasses people, they can understand, they can see and put into context what you’ve done so far, and how that fits into your larger vision, and then they can buy into that, right? And so if you think about your larger story, I mean, a lot of times you might have a product that only has certain features completed, right?
Just, it’s a shell, maybe, or a small portion of your entire vision, but if you tell that story to people, then they’re able to buy into what you’re trying to do, and I think for Mapout, I’m really trying to do that, because it’s training and … Video education is one piece, but I want to show how this can have an impact on a large audience and how it can impact individual people, how it can impact businesses as they try to grow, and to use training as a way to educate their employees and to grow their business.
Scott: I think it’s more applicable in the startup space than it is in the enterprise, because at the enterprise, there are so many layers of management that trying to sell your vision doesn’t hit with them unless it also hits their vision, so in the startup world, this type of thing, selling your story, selling your vision, telling them who you are and what you’re trying to achieve, is very important, because a lot of times, you will get buy-in just because of that story, just because of that vision. So yeah, it’s very applicable in the startup world, especially in small business, but I will say it probably does have an impact somewhere in the enterprise space as well. If you know your audience, which is one of our previous episodes, knowing how to connect with people and knowing your audience, if you know for a fact that something you’re passionate about and the story you’re trying to sell also hits a specific person somewhere up the food chain, then I think you’ll be successful.
Robert: Yeah, because I think a lot of times, for small businesses and entrepreneurs, maybe you don’t have an audience, or you’re just trying to connect initially with what, with your idea to get a toehold to kind of, to grow it, right? I mean, for me, that’s …
Robert: That’s what I’ve found, is that I’m just trying to get traction on the idea so that I can continue to grow it, and it’s that …
Robert: … initial traction that sometimes is difficult, but once you get traction with a couple people, then, through your story, and through how you’re telling people your vision about what you’re trying to do, then you can grow that.
Scott: I agree. Absolutely.
Robert: I mean, it’s the same thing you did with the apps, for your baseball apps, right? You started small, connecting with one group, and then people kind of … It kind of snowballed after that, right?
Scott: Yeah, and I never tried to sell the product. I always sold my vision.
Scott: It was …
Scott: “Hey, tell me about this,” and I wouldn’t tell them about the product. I would tell them about why I built it and what it could do, but I wouldn’t … It wasn’t me speaking to the product, so it was all the story.
Robert: Right, because that’s what resonates with them, right? They …
Robert: … bought into your passion. They had confidence …
Scott: And it worked.
Robert: … that you could deliver. Right. They had confidence that you could deliver what you were saying, but yeah, I think that’s so important, and it’s … So if you’re thinking, as you’re thinking about starting your idea, thinking about how you can tell that story in order to get people to buy into you and what you’re trying to build. So just a quick overview, so we talked about five different ways you can tackle big ideas. First one is, start small, getting one person at a time to buy in. Use a bottom-up instead of a top-down approach. Accept feedback but really stay confident in your ideas. Be persistent. And finally, number five is, tell your story. Hope you enjoyed this episode this week. We’d really appreciate, if you’re on iTunes or whatever platform you’re using, leave us a review. We’d really appreciate that. If you’re on SoundCloud, give us a like, and we’ll see you next week. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to stretchgoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.