Being ambitious is rewarding and challenging. When you start small, it’s difficult to imagine the path that leads to becoming the next Apple or Amazon. But you try. Being a small business owner isn’t easy. You get too caught up in the daily battles, budget sheets, and market research to take time out and think about the bigger picture. Peter Thiel’s must-read book Zero to One addresses this concept in detail.
Peter Thiel argues that to change the world and to shape the future, we need to think bigger. We need to go from nothing to something, from zero to one. This is where disruptive innovation happens. We need ideas that disrupt industries, create new possibilities and change behavior.
All this sounds motivating, but where do you start?
Because of their size, small businesses are primed for growth. They are not too big for bureaucracy but are big enough to experiment, break rules and innovate.
So, how do you do that? These five steps can help.
1. Look forward
The only way to create the future is to think about it first. Alan Kay, a computer scientist championed this method where he pushed people to glimpse into the future and tell how they expect things to be. Not 5 or 10 years, but 30 years forward.
What changes do you envision? How will our lives change? Don’t worry about the details at this point but focus on the big picture. Don’t question the why or the how—just take in the what.
Ask yourself, what can you create that doesn’t already exist? What market has less to almost no competition? What is a problem that still hasn’t been solved yet? Take this vision and bring it back to the present and find a piece of it that you can start working on today. This problem will become your driving force.
2. Get familiar with the rules… So you can break them
Once you have your problem and a place to start, it’s time to learn the basics. You need to learn the rules of the game that you’re playing, so when the time comes you can, break the rules and create something new.
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso
Here, it is important to identify what rules are you breaking. There is a difference between breaking rules with clear intent as opposed to breaking them with ignorance. Having a clear knowledge of what you’re doing is important, especially when it comes to the consequences of those decisions.
For instance, when it comes to building a brand for your business, don’t base your decision on the availability of the matching domain name. Instead choose a name that most resonates with your idea and then find the exact domain name on a new, relevant domain extension. With new domain extensions such as .TECH, .STORE, .ONLINE, .PRESS, .SITE, .FUN, etc., you have the opportunity to bring in creativity in your domain naming process. Here are some examples:
- http://www.louder.online (a digital marketing agency)
- http://www.breakinto.tech (a startup program that helps people from non-tech backgrounds break-into-tech)
- http://www.xion.store (a sports gear marketplace)
- http://www.grey.space (a creative agency)
3. Think big, but start small
The problem has been identified and the rules are understood, now you need to take the first step. Take that single value proposition that you can solve and focus all your energy on it. To truly grow big, you need to identify the niche that you can dominate. Only from there can you pursue the bigger picture. Otherwise, you’re aiming in the dark.
The interesting thing about vision, though, is that when it comes to startups it has a tendency to change. Most startups end up doing something completely different than what they set out to do before. So, don’t get too strict with your vision; just follow the path it paves.
Don’t get too attached to your original plan, because it’s probably wrong. Most successful startups end up doing something different than they originally intended — often so different that it doesn’t even seem like the same company.– Paul Graham
4. Think big…again
At this stage, there is probably a stark difference between where your startup was at the beginning and what it is now. At this stage, you need to reassess where you are and where can you go from here. Look forward again and think about how you can change the game.
Having a clear vision is a great motivator and it should always be present in the back of your mind. However, don’t get married to it. Just like your startup, let your vision transform and take its own shape. The important this is to have a bigger idea of where you want to go.
5. Become a platform
Once you make your mark on your core value proposition and find your foothold, it is time to grow. Your aim should be to move from solving a problem to empowering others to solve the same problem, to create a platform.
This is one of the larger goals that is born out of successful startups and where they all strive to be. First, dominate your market, then empower the market. Become someone that creates the future and changes the game.
Startups are exactly what this world needs. Entrepreneurs with a wish to change things, solve problems and carve a future. This promotes innovation and progress. So, while the process is challenging, the only way to make a difference is to think big about your small business.