E-Commerce secrets to scale

041 – Taking A Napkin Idea And Turning It Into A Business

041 – Taking A Napkin Idea And Turning It Into A Business

E-Commerce Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories and strategies of successful entrepreneurs and e-commerce professionals to uncover scaling secrets that will impact your online store.

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Tanner:
This week on the show, Brian Springer from Launch to Legacy Consulting joins me to talk about taking a napkin idea and turning it into a business. I really love this episode. Brian has some really awesome ideas and advice for you guys. You’re not going to want to miss this episode.
Welcome to the show, Brian. I’m really excited to have you. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Brian:
Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Brian Springer. I do a few things to help startups succeed, get their business up and running and with Launch to Legacy Consulting, among a couple other companies to help people out.

Tanner:
Awesome, man. So how did your career get started? Can you kind of tell us what your story is?

The power of networking.

Brian:

Yeah, for sure. So I’ve been in sales consulting for over 20 years and worked for large companies, medium sized companies and all that, and went over to this great place called 1 Million Cups a little over two years ago, and just really got introduced to the startup scene for the first time ever. And there was just something that lit a fire under me and it’s like, wow, okay. I think this is where I needed to be. And then I kept hearing people’s stories over and over and over again.

And then they had all these brand deals plans, but it never – well, sometimes it did, but usually it just crashed and burned and didn’t turn into anything. And then I found a stat that said 90% of startups fail. And, oh my gosh. So even though I didn’t really have this expertise by any stretch of the imagination, I was thinking, how can I help these people keep that glimmer in their eye and get their point to where their business is up and running? They’re making good traction, they understand their target market. They really know who they are, their mission values, et cetera, et cetera. And then how can they get out and make as much of an impact as they want. So that’s where I just started networking, connecting with the right people and just eventually connected with the right people and decided to start a firm to do specifically that.

Tanner:

The power of networking. Right?

Brian:

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s been fun because up until about two and a half years ago, I didn’t even really know networking was. I just thought that it was just a thing to wear H vac guys and insurance guys and people like that would just go over and see if they could drum up some business. But I didn’t realize that there was so much more to it than that. So yeah, there totally is. I mean, my cousin, Jared Springer is a master networker and connector and I was fortunate enough to go to lunch with him right when I was getting started into networking and he gave me some great pros of wisdom and I’ve taken that ever since then. And it’s worked really well for me.

We had to do pivot, after pivot, after pivot.

Tanner:

So, Brian, what are some obstacles that you’ve faced? Let’s just talk about your current business trying to grow.

Brian:

Oh, okay. Well certainly the first obstacle was I started this consulting firm called business builders initiative last year in January and our two most impactful and our two largest segments of our business was doing in-person business accelerators, where it was a hundred percent free to go over and it was a weekly accelerator at a coworking space. So we did that. We were making really good traction, really growing that and making an impact on these businesses, getting to them to the point of launching and just really tightening up their business. And then another part is if they wanted to talk about consulting with us, then they could do a one hour strategy session. And there was a room that filled with whiteboards and we’d have all these markers. And we would just say, yeah, tell us everything about your business. And then we would just start writing all that down, give them a marker.

And we would just do a fully collaborative meeting. And then we would say, okay, great. It looks like you’re the holes that you’re going to need tightened up is this, this and this based on the way that this whole vision is set up and then COVID hit. So COVID made it so we could not do these in-person whiteboard conversations. So then we had to adapt and figure out how do we do this virtually and still make it as impactful. It’s not as impactful, but it’s close to it now. And we have a hundred percent abandoned our in person accelerators for over a year. So then we just came out with different models and said, all right, well, let’s just see if we can do all these virtual networking groups and connect with as many people as we possibly can and build relationships through partnerships and solution partners, things like that to where they’re currently working with clients that might need our services. And yeah, we had to do pivot after pivot after pivot.

Tanner:

Yeah, man, I’m sure. I’m sure that was brutal. Luckily for me, my business model doesn’t require any in-person collaboration, but I did decide to go all in on my agency week before COVID happened. So it was kind of just like an abrupt stop. So I think everyone felt that and you know, it’s really good that we’re kind of coming out of that hole and the world’s going back to normal. So I’m really, really happy about that.

Brian:

Absolutely things are definitely going well, I’ve gone to about four or five in-person networking groups and it just revitalize me again because I just absolutely love the in-person thing that shaking hands, hugging people, just really connecting with people on a much deeper level than you can ever get with Zoom. That being said, I mean, video conferencing has just really opened up our opportunities to connect with people that we just absolutely never would have had the opportunity to otherwise.

This has just opened up a new world.

Tanner:

Yeah. I agree with that. And I personally am not a huge fan of virtual networking events, but the fact that everyone has so widely adopted Zoom meetings, that’s been a big blessing in disguise. Would you agree with that?

Brian:

Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah. And it’s funny. So I’ve been investing into Zoom stock for awhile and it just absolutely crashed about four or five months ago. So it says all the economy’s coming back to, to normal. So people aren’t going to be using Zoom anymore. It’s like, are you kidding me? No, this has just opened up a new world. So when I saw it crashed, I go, well, I’m going all in. And I had invested big into Zoom at that point because of course Zoom is not going away. And people just really started getting a taste and figuring out that they can work remotely a hundred percent of the time, or they can connect with people in other states, other countries, other networks, and just really grow their business and really innovative ways.

And frankly, especially these people that are large corporations that are traveling to different countries all the time and just spending millions upon millions of dollars on travel. Well, now they can do Zoom and be so much more effective with it and the overhead and they don’t need commercial real estate nearly as much. And so there’s so many things that Zoom just transforms.

I wouldn’t even call it a current success.

Tanner:

Yeah, no, no question. I’m a big fan of it. So, Brian, what would you attribute your success to over the years?

Brian:

Well, before I started in the startup scene, definitely just my ability and my comfortability with just connecting with people, having honest conversations with you, with my clients about their current situation, how they can improve. So instead of me saying, okay, great. Here’s what we do. That doesn’t matter. So I would always just say, well, let’s have a conversation about you for as long as it takes, because I just really want to uncover what you’re going through, what your challenges are.

And then I can let you know if we’re a solution for you and specifically how we can be a solution, but if you don’t know their problem, if you don’t know them as a person, you’re not going to help them. And you may think you might be able to, but they don’t care until they know that you know how to help them. So that was always my strongest ability is just doing that and negotiating and just really coming to the terms, that’s a win-win situation for everybody and just really how to move that needle forward, how to give them that immediate success.

The thing is with my current success, I wouldn’t even call it a current success. I would say that we’re definitely making some good traction and we’ve, I feel that we have found a new solution for different people in the consulting space that provides a great solution to startups. But as far as success, I don’t know what success is. Is it taking a hundred companies from idea on a napkin, upwards to a million dollars in revenue a year? I don’t know what that is. I don’t know if we’ve really defined that, but I feel that we’re making good traction and I’m enjoying it and we’re making an impact on the current companies we’re working with.

Tanner:

Yeah. I always find it interesting when I ask that question because everyone’s definition of success is so wildly different, right? And of course it’s all relative. It all depends on how you define success. And I think for most people it’s just getting to where you want to go or it’s a milestone or something like that. But, you know, I think the true definition of success is just helping as many people as you can.

Brian:

Exactly. And that’s why I’m saying that we’re not a success yet because we’re not helping as many people as we can because we really haven’t gotten our message out to as many people as we can. So until we do that and until we can build the value of this is specifically how we can help you. And like, let’s, let’s see if we can, if we can do something for you to get your business up and running, to get it to scale and everything like that. Then if we’re not really doing that and having solid adoption, then I frankly don’t think that we’re a success yet.

This is a super rough, rough rock that you’re presenting to me right now. And I really got to smooth that out.

Tanner:

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Right? You guys are still just starting out and, you know, starting out. I think the, the wise thing for us to discuss today is starting the business from scratch. So and we’re talking napkin idea, you know, haven’t done anything yet. Probably don’t even have a name for it yet. In your opinion, what’s the first thing that you should do?

Don’t say that you’re the owner.

Brian:

Man, that’s a good question. So I’ve gone about this several different ways with several different companies and I’ve done it to where they tell me an idea. I think it’s a garbage idea. So I go, we really got to, this is a super rough, rough rock that you’re presenting to me right now. And I really got to smooth that out so much where it’s just a beautiful gem when I’m done with it. So I’ve gone the way of saying, Hey, let’s do a product market fit validation first, and let’s figure out what your target market thinks of your product. But now I’ve gone back and said, you know what? I think I’m jumping the gun. I don’t think we need to do that yet because they don’t even really know what their product or service is quite yet because they just thought of it on a napkin. They thought of it 24 hours ago and said, Hey, I think I got this great idea. What do you think? All right.

So first off you’ve got to come up with what is your unique value proposition, your UVP, who do you think that this is going to appeal to? What is your competition look like? What problem are you really solving? What is your benefit? Like, how does the process go from, start to finish? What price are you thinking of selling this for? And then really once you have that all down and you’ve got those basics really, really down and concrete, and ideally you have a business name, you don’t necessarily need to register as an LLC or anything like that yet. But once you have that part really, really down packed, then it’s time to go over, start just generate a few questions, go ask some people that, like friends and family and other associates, other business people that you might know.

But really what I would caution you on when you do this to see if they’re actually your target market and if you’re actually solving a problem is don’t say that you’re the owner. Because if you say they’re the owner, they will not dare call your baby ugly, unless they’re a hundred percent honest with you. And especially your mom or dad, they’re not going to talk that they’re going to be like, oh, that sounds like a great idea, honey. And then you just go and invest a hundred thousand dollars in five years a year of your life because your mom says that sounds like a good idea. No, it’s a terrible idea. No. So just like, Hey, one of my business associates is thinking for doing thinking of doing this. And they think that this is the problem that you’re solving. What are your thoughts? And then just ask them a few questions. I think that that’s going to just be the basic core framework of finding out if you have something that could be viable.

Tanner:

Yeah. I really liked that. You say when you identify a problem that you’re solving and I completely agree with you, you need to make sure you’re talking to who your target market is. So maybe one of the first things that needs to happen is identifying who your target audiences, where they are, have a conversation with them.

Another tactic that I’ve heard a lot is, you know, like you said, people are not really willing to tell you the truth if it’s going to make you feel bad. Right. So another good way to kind of catch them in the lie is to ask them if they would buy it right then, right then and there and tell them a price.

Brian:

Yeah. Well that’s the thing. Not even tell them a price cause first say, oh, okay, great. So you said that you absolutely love it. So from a scale of one to 10, what is the likelihood that you, that you would give me a credit card and buy this right now? And they just like get shifty eyed and all that.

It’s like, okay, you’re not the target market, but if they say, yeah, absolutely. I’m eight out of 10. Okay. Well that’s pretty high. Well, what is the maximum price that you would pay for this? Oh, well, I don’t know. $15. Oh, well I was planning on charging $300. And then, you know, that there’s that really solid void of the value of what you think it is or what other people think it is.

Tanner:

Yeah. So I would say knowing if you’re solving a real problem or not is probably one of the biggest things that most entrepreneurs will work over and miss when they’re starting a business from scratch. Is there anything else that you can think of? Yeah. I mean, a lot of times people think that well, and I thought this for so many years when I was going to college, when I was just working at other businesses that I go, oh, maybe I want to start a business. And I kept pausing on that because I go, I want to think of a brand new idea that no one’s ever thought of before. Well, sure you can try that. But one other great way that you can go about this is the products that you regularly think, oh, this is great and all – but if it had this extra feature, then I would totally love this 10 times more. Okay. Well maybe that’s something. Now that extra feature does the existing competition possess this extra feature that you’re thinking would be super powerful. Nobody does, huh? Well now I might be onto something. So lots of times people just get analysis paralysis because they can’t think of the next great idea.

We’ll see if we can smooth out that rock.

Tanner:

Yeah. I would agree with that. Everyone’s looking for the next billion dollar idea. Right. And I’m sure there’s a million of them out there. Some of them might not be viable.

Brian:

Well and you know, and you know what one of our companies that we’re working with right now, man, he’s pretty confused. He thinks that, and he actually set this word. He says, our company is going to be the next trillion dollar company might trillion with a T as in tango T? Okay. I can think of two companies ever that have reached that level, but what makes you think that? He started showing me all this and I go, huh? That actually looks a lot like Home Advisor. And he goes, well, and then just started backtracking and I go, dude, it’s essentially Home Advisor meets you’re also providing other courses where people can learn how to become specialists in what they do and go into the tech world and, and all that. So you’re essentially combining online colleges with Home Advisor. I’m like, I don’t know if there’s anything there, but we’ll try. We’ll see if we can smooth out that rock.

Tanner:

Yeah. And I also think that ideas are a dime a dozen. I don’t think that most ideas that people come up with are really new or groundbreaking. Right? It bothers me so much when I am having a conversation with someone and they say, they’ve got this great business idea, but they won’t tell me what it is because they think I’m gonna steal it.

Brian:

They’re like you need to sign an NDA.

Tanner:

Yeah. And I’m like, come on, I can’t see your vision. I can’t replicate that. All that really matters is execution.

Brian:

Yeah. Well, and the thing is what is the likelihood? Because you’re in the marketing space, what’s the likelihood that you’re going to hear someone’s idea. You’re like, oh, I’m going to steal that right now. And I’m going to just take this from idea on a napkin and I’m going to just launch this and I’m going to go every step of the way. Probably not.

Tanner:

Yeah. I completely agree with that.

Brian:

But you’ve probably had people approach you saying, Hey, before I can share anything with you, granted I’m only in my idea on a napkin stage, but I need you to sign an NP.

Tanner:

Like it’s crazy how often yeah. That actually does happen pretty often might be surprised.

Brian:

No, no, no, no. I’m not surprised.

Do your own product market research that you can do a hundred percent for free.

Tanner:

So Brian, what’s one piece of advice you could share with anyone listening that is an aspiring entrepreneur and is just looking to start executing on their napkin idea.

Brian:

Well, if they’ve already narrowed down and say, Hey, I’ve got this idea. I think this is it. Whether it’s a product, a service, a technology piece, whatever it may be, SAS, anything. Then really just like I was saying before, figure out the, the competition, what problem you’re solving, all that, all those core, basic pieces of it.

And then just do your own product market research that you can do a hundred percent for free. You’re not going to get super great content, but at least you’re going to get baseline information of what people might think. And then if you find out that there might be something there. Well, I mean, and without really getting too far into detail, cause we might mention this later. We can help at that point or, I mean, frankly, there’ve been some people that called up and they go, Hey, I thought of this idea two hours ago. So where do I go from here? It’s like, okay, well, that’s interesting that you just thought of this two hours ago. So let’s start with the bare bones of it. And that’s really where we start with that UVP. And let’s, let’s look into that option. We’ll do a strategy session with them and figure out, let’s dive into this a lot more and figure out if there’s any, any meat on this bone.

Make sure that you have your fulfillment on point.

Tanner:

So, Brian, what would you say your secrets to scale are?

Brian:

The secrets to scale are – because so many people, they will look for funding way too early. They’ll look for funding when their idea on an app kit. And if they are starting to get some revenue, they can, okay, great. Now I need to get some funding so I can get to that next level or so I can build my beta or build my MVP, whatever it may be. And there’s a difference between good revenue and bad revenue. The good revenue is going to be ones where you can show.

And I know that you know that since you’re in the marketing space, that good revenue comes from people that are in your target market, where you’ve done marketing to reach out to them. You’ve had such a compelling piece of information through your attraction marketing strategies, to where the call to actions have been to where they either go to your website, they give you a call, whatever it may be. And then they sign on with you and then they become your early adopters. And then with them being your raving fans, then they start telling their friends and family and posting it on social networks saying, dude, you got to check this out. This is awesome. This is solving my biggest problem. And this is awesome. And if you can have that, then you can really take that over to an investor and say, because my thought process is bootstrap, as long as you possibly can but at some point in time, you’re going to need funds more than likely.

So if you get to the point where it says, Hey, I’ve created a hundred thousand dollars in revenue, whether it be pre-sales post-sales whatever, and this is the traction that I’m making specifically within my target market, this is great revenue. And this is what I’m looking for for this portion of the company. And you find the right investment partner, that’s going to help connect you with the right people to really get you amazing hockey stick growth, get you that awesome traction. And that’s really going to scale your business fast. And always make sure that you have your fulfillment on point because there there’s one of the podcasts that I listened to by Tim Ferriss that says he’s actually bankrupted a couple of his friend’s companies and he felt horrible about it because he’s got, say 10 million listeners and he recommends his buddies products. And then the fulfillment goes a hundred X overnight and they don’t have the fulfillment set up and it completely drops their company off the face of the earth because they can’t handle it and then they just go out of business. So yeah, definitely make sure before you scale that you have the fulfillment ready to handle that.

Tanner:

Yeah. I mean, you can’t grow a hundred X overnight, right?

Brian:

No. I mean, in theory you can, if you’ve got everything ready to go for it.

Tanner:

Yeah. That’s a good point. So Brian, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this. Is there anything that I have not asked you that you think might benefit the audience?

Brian:

I would say that be open to connect with people to network, to listen to their ideas, to pivot when pivoting makes sense. Because I hear of startups way, way, way too often, and I know you do as well, to where they say my idea is the next big idea. I’ve heard that seven times last week alone. Like, okay, great. I haven’t heard of any of your companies. Yeah. Let’s see how many of you are around in a year. And one of them is like by doing rap freestyle battles back and forth and that’s the entire app. I’m like, I don’t know if that’s going to be the next big Apple, whatever.

But then they they’re just saying, no, I don’t need any help from you. I don’t need any connections. I don’t need any networking. I just want to let you know that I am asking for funding. So if you want to get, get in right now, then this is the time to be. So I am only interested in money right now. It’s like, okay. So I would 100% say don’t ever get into that position. Just be open, be flexible and be willing to listen to other people’s perspectives because there are a lot of people that are smarter than you and you have to take that into account.

Tanner:

Yeah, that’s excellent advice. So Brian, what’s a good way for anyone listening to get in contact with you?

Brian:

They can get in touch with me at my email, which is [email protected]. Of course that’s our website, the launch two, which is T O. So launch to legacy consulting.com. And by the way, we’ve got our introductory packages for our startups ranges anywhere from 25 bucks to 80 bucks a month. And we can help with business formation, customer retention, and also prepping you for investors and get you in touch with the right business solutions at the right time, including investment platforms, fundraisers, all that type of stuff. And the cool thing is, since I was a guest on your podcast, then you can give a discount code and you can start with us a hundred percent for free. Well, it’s going to be free to you because you’ve already agreed to pay for that first month, which is awesome. And they can just use the code, R A N K S E Y, which is the name of your company. And then just get started up with us. We’ll give them a free strategy session and dive into their business and really see if they have something there.

Tanner:

All right, man, we’ll make sure to link that up in the show notes, everyone head over to Launch to Legacy, use discount code RANKSEY. Get a free month on us. Thanks again, Brian.

Tanner:

Absolutely. Thanks Tanner.

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