From day one, Corbett, Chase, and Caleb prioritized member success here at Fizzle.
As Corbett put it in his great post on Five Ways to Stand Out In a Sea of Noise, "caring can be your company's growth engine."
We've bet hard on caring as our growth engine here at Fizzle, which is why I joined the team last year to lead our member success efforts. And now that we've had Steph Crowder join our team, I'm moving on to lead our marketing and growth efforts, while Steph takes over for member success.
While everything is still fresh, I want to share what we've learned over the past year as I've focused full-time on helping our members succeed. And that starts with what "members success" means to us.
If we could wave a magic wand, we would give every single one of our members a business that supports their families with a full time income. Unfortunately, there are so many variables that go into a successful business: personality, team, market conditions, timing, quality of the idea, execution, and so much more… which means we don't always have control over the outcome for your business
With that in mind, we redefined how we think about what it means for members to succeed every month (and therefore why they should keep paying us to be members).
Our goal is to help our members make measurable progress in their business, week after week. That's a goal we can get behind, and we've focused our strategy squarely on designing our onboarding, courses, and community to deliver on that promise.
In pursuing that goal, we've started to see trends in what makes some members succeed more quickly than others. Here's what we've found.
1. They have pre-existing expertise or focus on building expertise quickly
Many Fizzlers who succeed quickly have pre-existing expertise in either an industry, a skillset, or both. For example, Andy over at GreatNorthwestWine.com had been writing about or judging the wine industry for more than 15 years before he started his own business. Tom had been building design skills for 10+ years before he launched DesignCuts.com.
In both cases, their pre-existing expertise helped their businesses get off to a fast start. But not everyone who succeeds takes 10 years to build expertise before launching a business. Sometimes people simply don't realize the expertise they've already built — refocusing your business to take advantage of your expertise is one way to make the jump.
Another way we've seen is for Fizzlers to become leading learners. Leading learner is a concept Corbett talks about often, where you use your busienss as a reason to build expertise and then teach that expertise to your audience as you learn. Claire Pelletreau has built her Facebook ads expertise as she's grown her business at ClairePells.com. Tim Aton is learning a ton about designing resumes as he builds ResumeRedesign.co.
Here's what these people have in common: they focus on using or building knowledge and skills related to their topic, industry, or both. This results in much faster progress and they create much more value for their customers.
2. They aren't afraid to choose
So many people get stuck in paralyzing indecision during the earliest stages of building a business. They let the process of choosing an audience and focusing on a business idea paralyze them. They're "multi-potentialites" who don't want to "limit their creativity and opportunities."
People who make progress in their businesses week after week have something in common: they feel the same fears and hesitations as the multipotentialites and then they choose anyways.
They understand the importance of choosing a business idea and an audience and then moving forward. They also understand that to do many things well in your business, you first have to do one thing well. They know that while they might start small today, their vision can grow over time.
People who build successful businesses consider their options and then they take decisive action. They move forward to test their ideas rather than wallowing in self-pity about not knowing what they want to do with their lives.
3. They set clear goals
Fizzlers who build successful businesses don't just try things out. They're not just playing around in the sandbox. They set daring but doable goals and then find ways to reach them.
A fear-based approach to starting a business would mean avoiding goals in favor of not being disappointed by the outcomes.
People who want to succeed in starting an independent business know what their goals are, they understand what metrics matter, and they do whatever they can to reach those goals. For many, that means setting an initial goal of making their first dollar, then making a full time living, then building wealth.
They use their financial goals to focus their activities and they use their values to make decisions that help them make money in a way they're proud of. A person focused on making a full time living to support their family doesn't fret about the two people who unsubscribed from their email list or whether their business card is pretty. They focus on solving problems, serving hard, and winning customers.
4. They own their progress on a daily or weekly basis
Procrastination is a hallmark of all entrepreneurs, but especially entrepreneurs just getting started. Rather than focus on the activities that will have the biggest impact on reaching your goals, most entrepreneurs do things that ultimately don't matter for making progress.
The Fizzlers we've seen avoid the procrastination trap track progress towards their goals on a daily or weekly basis. They use a company operating system to set priorities each day or week and then own what they did or did not do at the end of each day or week.
Owning your progress has two effects:
- If you're not doing anything to make progress in your business, it ensures you face the reality sooner rather than later.
- If you are making progress in your business, it will help you feel more fulfillment and understanding of just how much work you're getting done.
5. They embrace "just in time" learning
I can't tell you how many Fizzlers leave Fizzle because they say they don't have time to use Fizzle right now.
It turns out the most successful Fizzlers use Fizzle in much different way than those who leave because they don't have time. We call this approach "just in time" learning.
The way most entrepreneurs think about learning is a sort of fear of missing out approach. If they haven't taken as many courses, read as many aricles, and listened to as many podcasts as possible, then they "might miss out on the one thing that will make their business successful."
The most successful entrepreneurs think about learning to build a business in more of a just in time approach. They understand the overall process of building a business and then they use Fizzle (and other training) to learn the skills, tools, and processes necessary to get to their next business milestone.
During the process, they also use Fizzle in very distinct ways to give them the support, encouragement, and resources they need along the way. That's the focus of the next two things successful entrepreneurs do differently.
6. They recognize the power of mastermind groups
Mastermind groups are like lighter fuel for your business. We've talked in depth about mastermind groups here on The Sparkline, but here's a quick refresher…
A mastermind group is a collection of 4-8 creative individuals (we’re all creative) who meet on a regular basis to help one another reach their fullest potential.
In the case of Fizzlers, they work to find other like-minded entrepreneurs to form a group who meets regularly to share feedback and lessons learned with one another.
Having a group of people who are in the muck of starting a business just like you is one of the most powerful ways to make consistent progress in your business. With a mastermind group, you have an opportunity to set goals and own your progress along with the public accountability from the group to keep going.
The most successful Fizzlers find a group through the Fizzle forums and then keep the group going as each member continues to build her business.
7. They give back to the community
You might think with a forums-based community that the best way to get value is to ask alot of questions and seek alot of help from others.
We've found the opposite to be true — Some of the most successful Fizzlers actually use the Fizzle community to help others more often than they use it to ask for help themselves. We see these Fizzlers give about 4-8 times as much as they get from the Fizzle community.
That might seem backwards, but it actually makes perfect sense — it's the law of relationship capital at work. The more help you give to others, the more they want to reciprocate to help you succeed as well.
When you're regularly giving help to others, you're building relationship capital with each of those people. Then when you ask for help in return, all of those people feel a sense of obligation to help in return. Similarly, people who take a giving approach in the Fizzle community are more likely to take the same approach with customers. That's a powerful tool for any entrepreneur.
8. They speak directly to customers
We've seen entrepreneurs repeatedly make a common mistake. They will try anything and everything to try to start or grow their business, while at the same time doing anything and everything to avoid speaking directly to current or potential customers.
Customers may not always have the exact answers for how to grow your business, but they are extremely familiar with one thing: their problems. Entrepreneurs who solve problems that require "painkillers, not vitamins" as Atlanta entrepreneur David Cummings puts it, are more likely to succeed.
The way you find out what problems are important enough to your customers that they'll pay to solve them is simple: talk to your customers.
Talk them by email, schedule Skype calls with them, or, if possible, meet them in person. Learn about their lives. Find out who else they are learning from in your industry. Find out why they love your business, but more importantly, ask them what they would change if they were in control. And, for the good of your business, ask them what they're struggling with. Dig deep. Find out why they're struggling, what they've tried to get past their struggles, and more.
Your customers have the answers to unlocking your business potential (or realizing there's less potential than you thought). The most successful entrepreneurs know this and use it to their advantage.
9. They understand that a blog, or a podcast, or a video series is not a business… unless it is.
I get so discouraged by how often we hear this story: "I have a podcast interviewing successful entrepreneurs and I get 5,000 downloads every week… but I'm not making any money."
We follow up and ask, "What's your business archetype?"
Response: "I guess I never thought about how I would make money… I just thought I should start with a podcast."
Successful entrepreneurs understand that a blog, or a podcast, or a video show, is not a business. Unless it is. Let me explain.
A blog is a marketing channel. It's the equivalent of buying a booth at a trade show or buying Facebook ads to show people your product. A blog/podcast/video series helps you build an audience who trusts you enough to consider buying your products or services.
Businesses have existed for thousands of years without blogs or podcasts or videos. Businesses are built when people (your audience) decide to buy your products or services, which means you make money and can keep growing your business. Which leads us to the next thing successful entrepreneurs do differently…
But first, to silence all the people who will say, "BUT WAIT! My blog IS my business." I'll admit it. It's possible to build a business based on the "mediapreneur" archetype where your audience IS the product you sell to your customers, who are advertisers or sponsors. Those advertisers or sponsors pay you for space on your blog or reads on your podcast/video show. In this case, you're selling your audience, which can work, but it's a hard road in today's online environment. Not impossible, just hard.
10. To make money, they have a product or service for sale
I know, it seems painfully obvious. In order to make money, you have to have something for sale.
You would be surprised by how many entrepreneurs are wasting away in the deep dark corners of their basement wondering why they can't quit their job or pay their bills… and they don't have a product or service for sale.
If you want to make money in your business, it's not good enough to have a great website, or a blog, or a podcast, or a youtube series. It doesn't matter how big your email list is. It doesn't matter how well you understand your audience and their problems… unless you have a product or service for sale.
Successful entrepreneurs understand this and they start before they feel ready. The only way to find out whether your business can make it is to get to the point of trying to sell a thing to your customers as soon as possible. The sooner you ask for money for your thing, the sooner you'll find out whether it's valuable enough to help you grow your business.
The sooner you learn this information, the more likely you'll be to have time and energy to make necessary adjustments. Most products or services don't just fly of the shelves like hotcakes (or whatever) on day one. Instead, products and services become huge hits from iteration that incorporates learning from trying to sell to real people.
Successful entrepreneurs launch products and services before they feel ready. They incorporate their learning and keep going until they have a thing that's a painkiller. You should too.
11. They power through the dip
Finally, successful entrepreneurs know when to power through the dip and when to move on.
At some point, every project becomes work. The excitement fades away, the product launch is in the rear view mirror, and you realize you have years and years ahead of you to figure out how to grow your business into a sustainable, living, breathing thing that supports you and your family.
That moment is scary. It's intimidating.
And sometimes it comes at a point when you're not sure your business is even viable. Maybe your idea is off. Maybe people aren't buying. Maybe no one even knows your business exists. Or maybe you just haven't picked the right problem to solve.
The most successful entrepeneurs know when to quit and when to keep going. They are surrounded by a community who can help them evaluate the way forward and they're not scared to quit a bad idea in order to build a better one.
But more important than anything, the most successful entrepreneurs also know how to do the hard work to power through the dip. They're not scared of the path from their first $1 to making a full time living to building a team. They have the courage to keep going when it gets tough. You have that courage too. But you might have to dig deep to find it.
The most successful entrepreneurs understand things many aspiring entrepreneurs (wantrepreneurs) will never understand. They act differently. They have work ethic. They surround themselves with a community. They focus on solving problems for their customers.
Entrepreneurs who successfully build sustainable businesses are an impressive bunch. There's no reason why you can't be one as well. But to get there, you'll have to act like one. This post is step one.
What have you learned about what successful independent entrepreneurs do differently? Share what you've learned in the comments!
The Top 10 Mistakes in Online Business
Every week we talk with entrepreneurs. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We talk about successes and failures. We spend time with complete newbies, seasoned veterans, and everything in between.
One topic that comes up over and over again with both groups is mistakes made in starting businesses. Newbies love to learn about mistakes so they can avoid them. Veterans love to talk about what they wish they had known when starting out.
These conversations have been fascinating, so we compiled a list of the 10 mistakes we hear most often into a nifty lil' guide. Get the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Starting an Online Business here »