How Michael Phelps Can Inspire Your Startup

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.” Michael Phelps

Unless you are living on another planet, you could not have missed the incredible medal haul of Phelps.

How does one man achieve so much? Is it because of his 6ft 8in wing span and body shape which helps him conquer the swimming pool? Or is there something more?

And What does this mean for you and your startups?

#1 Start early and focus on what you are best

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”

Michael Phelps started training at the age of 7 and never looked back.

While there is a time and place for early adopters, the startup world rewards the early movers disproportionately. There is research which says that the first one gets 80% of the available value and the next one 14%. The rest fight for the 6%.

Always ask the question “what benefit is my offering giving to the customers?” Once you are clear, and your customer responds to it, focus on it. Keep practicing and improving.

#2 Sharpen your axe every day

Phelps has done swimming from the age of 7 and swam every day. Every Day!

Can you imagine that kind of commitment? Whatever the weather conditions, he would don his swimming cap and goggles and start swimming. This sheer dedication to the craft helped him put the distance between him and others.

Anders Erickson was the first to discover the 10,000-hour rule for expert performance.

The only way to get to that is practice every day.

I was recently in a pitch presentation, and a startup in the VR field said their AI machine had clocked 500k minutes of database, and this is its competitive advantage.

An early start is what will put the distance between your enterprise and others.

#3 Prepare for the worst

2008 Olympics. It’s the 200-metre butterfly finals. Phelps goggles are getting filled with water. He is unable to see clearly. What does he do? He keeps swimming as if nothing has changed. In the final lap, the goggles are completely filled, and he is nearly blind. Outcome: not only does he win the gold he sets a new record.

If there is one thing you can say for sure in business, it is this: Things will go wrong.

And when they do, you should be prepared.

An Ex-Australian Navy officer once told me, which stuck with me all my life: “You can never be shocked twice.”

If you prepare for the worst outcome, you will overcome it when it presents itself. Build the Ownership mindset in your employees so that you have an extra pair of eyes and ears on the ground.

What are the outcomes which you need to prepare for?

Flood of negative reactions from Customers

Cash running dry

Key personnel leaving you

Most large businesses have a written document titled Business Continuity Planning. Prepare for disasters and you will pole vault them when required

#4 You are limited by your beliefs

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get. – Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at the age of seven. Imagine if he or his family decided to use that as a label for him. How limiting would that have been?

Ian Thorpe, who was his competitor, at one time famously said that no one could beat Mark Spitz’s seven gold medal haul. Phelps broke it with eight golds in the 2008 Olympics.

What a way to silence the naysayers!

Once you startup, you should focus on the business you have. Keep thinking about the customer and what you can do.

Learn from the mistakes of others.

As long as you are focused on the customer, you will always aim high and every day, you will generate new ideas to satisfy the customer.

Keep testing and churning out ways to delight your customer.

Don’t be limited by what is possible. Dream and aim high. Focus always on delighting the customer.

#5 Start Again

All was not rosy with Michael Phelps two years back. There is the infamous alcohol incident and his subsequent rehab. But he did not let it define him. When everyone had given up on him, and he had “retired”, he came back for one more shot at “immortality.”

There will be times when the going will be tough. You may even find yourself on the knees, down and beaten. It may even look like a dead end.

Hunker down, batten down the hatches.

Find out what makes you great. What do your customers love you for? Seek out the customers who love what you have to offer. Get the reinforcement. Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Start again. Come back with renewed energy.

True champions don’t always have smooth sailing. They also taste the dust sometimes.

What separates them from losers is that they come back, they start again.

Grit your teeth, spit the blood, fight the dust off and rise again. Be a Gladiator.

The podium of success awaits your moment of glory.

 

If you liked the post, Do share with your friends.

Sign up for free productivity and leadership posts delivered straight to your inbox.

If you like the above post, you may also like these popular posts:

If you like these blog posts and want more, Drop your email address in any of the forms.

If you believe in mindset change as a foundation for success, then, check out my book

Now Available on Amazon

Now Available on Amazon

9 Insanely Helpful Ways To Keep Startup Marketing Lean And Effective

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a startup founder or CEO, you need to run a lean operation which can get the promised growth fast. You have secured your round of funding; you want to get out there and make the most of the plans that you have outlined and secured an approval. But, we have also seen how yesteryear unicorns are going through markdowns or downrounds.

You want to make sure that your marketing is geared for delivering the growth, develops and executes programs which run fast and have the most impact.

Find below the ways by which you can keep your marketing team and programs, lean and efficient.

Focus on core objective – conversions

There could be multiple goals floating around: Generate traffic, generate leads, convert to prospects and then sales or convert a ready list into sales – whatever is the objective, you need to focus on the One Thing, which generates the most impact in your business. Your One Thing is led by your commitments to the investor team in your last review meeting or funding round. If it is traffic generation then focus on getting the maximum number of people coming to the site or place. If it is Gross Merchandise Value then with traffic you need fast conversions, and hence, marketing efforts will focus on conversions and promotions.

A big hairy goal can then be made byte sized for actions. How?

Break the mountain into pieces

Start with a goal drill down into monthly goals.

Based on the Focus, which you have decided, break the overall target into monthly goals. Then, convert them into weekly deliverables. These should be on your screen or in front of you every time. This Focus, also, makes sure that teams are not working on various nice-to-have items. One team is working on one goal.

Now, break down the weekly deliverables into daily tasks.

Checklist your way to success. Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation. A pilot in any airline swears by his checklist and hence has a higher success ratio.

Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation Click To Tweet

A Checklist also helps in guiding your focus to the things which have the maximum impact.

Focus on the One thing TODAY

What will make the maximum impact on the business today, then tomorrow and day after?

Based on your cascade from Core objective to monthly goals to weekly deliverables, every day you need to prioritize those things which will generate the maximum impact. Again, the power of the few gets amplified when you work on the most impactful item now. When you meet any of your team members, ask them, what is the most impactful thing, you are working on today? Be ready with your answer for what is the most impactful for you too? Ideally, what is most impactful for you should be the same as the marketing person, the only difference would be the actions you are taking.

Once we are clear about what we want to do, then we can use the right media to amplify the message.

Use social media to amplify the message

You must be already on social media, however, have you prioritized it? I sincerely hope that you are not present in all the channels because you need to create buzz. The first decision of which social media you need to be must be decided by where your audience is.

Your customer profile decides which social media you need to focus your marketing on Click To Tweet

Once you zero onto the one medium or max two media, you need to tailor the content and programs depending on the medium. The campaigns you would do LinkedIn would be vastly different from the ones done on Instagram.

Ask your team to follow some of the big social media mavens out there who have tons of content on how to boost your social media efforts.

Keeping your social media efforts focused on one or max two will go a long way in keeping your team lean and your programs impactful.

This focus will help you in testing which messages work best in which media.

What are you testing today?

Treat every campaign ideas as a test and compare two different campaigns.

We have all heard about A/B testing.

However what lies at the heart of this is the testing mindset. By daily setting up tests, over three months’ time, your team will have enough data not only on the customers’ habits and preferences but also on which marketing programs work and why. Testing also removes the emotional attachment to “pet projects” and trust me everyone in marketing has a pet project.

Help the team develop a testing mindset 

With the data you have, you can allocate more funds to the programs which are delivering your objectives at the best cost-benefit equation.

Testing also brings excitement in marketing and the learning improves helping them get better every day at what they are doing. It is just like your product team which is testing every day and churning out “beta” ideas.

Do your marketing in permanent Beta mode Click To Tweet

This testing will lead to a calendar of activities.

Calendar for Marketing Programs

While it is exciting to try many programs and ideas, it can quickly become a distraction and sap energies. A calendar should guide the list of programs. Just like big blogs and social media have editorial calendars, the marketing effort needs to have a marketing calendar where every program in the month should lead to the monthly goal. The monthly goal decided the content and nature of the online and offline campaign you have. I would strongly recommend THINK DIGITAL FIRST. How does your campaign weave into our target customer’s online life? The monthly goal decides the content of the tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn stories and the Instagram posts that you do.

Once you decided on the what and the tone of the content, the next step is sequencing the messages. Having a calendar of online activities creates buzz but more importantly, drives traffic to the call to action that your campaign is directing the target customer towards.

You have a Call to action in every campaign, right?

Don’t create campaigns only for entertainment – create for conversions Click To Tweet

With CTA embedded in every campaign, over time, you will develop insights and learnings into the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Continuous Learning

Make the team read a marketing best practice or a social media blog every day and note down the action points.

As a startup, you are not wedded to any brand manual or global marketing program which large companies have. But, you also miss out on the learnings and best practices these companies have. You level the field by having a learning hour for you and your marketing team every day. Ideally two hours. Listen to podcasts when driving, take notes on your voice recorder. Read the biggest influencers in your space and social media.

Most importantly, develop testing ideas from your notes and learnings. If you can learn and test 10 new ideas for marketing, every day, imagine what it would do to your marketing capability by the end of the year? You would have tested more than 3000 marketing ideas. Talk about the compounding effect.

This testing and a ready bank of ideas will make sure you will operate at a speed which will blow your competition away.

Make Speed Your Strongest  Weapon

Action over Anticipation. Be Agile.

As a Startup, your lean structure helps you in taking decisions faster. If you are clear about the One thing which is going to drive your business for this year, this week and today, and you have a calendar for your online activities ready, then, there should be no reason why you should churn out your programs at a rapid pace.

To deliver the pace, Make sure that you are hiring the right people. Once you have cultivated the testing mindset, you can roll out the programs in beta mode, get results and if it is working, increase it to scale.

Scale should also include feedback from your customers on what is working and what is not. You don’t need elaborate research for this. Have built-in feedback systems inside your campaign. Call a sample of customers every week and test your assumptions. Ask them what is working, what is not working?

This feedback will not only increase the pace of your campaigns and positive results, but it will also, make you nimble in your fight against the giants.

Be the David in the vs. Goliath game

Move with speed and in fail fast mode. Know your strengths

Malcolm Gladwell points out some interesting aspects in his book David vs. Goliath. David wins more times than Goliath. The trick? Find your unique niche and play by your rules. While Goliath had a sword (good for close range combat where size and strength would help), David had a slingshot (the shepherd’s tools). He also ran towards Goliath probably unsettling him with this offensive. The slingshot helped him to aim from distance, fire and keep moving.

Find what makes you best and do it faster and harder.

Don’t aim for the best marketing. Aim for faster marketing. Click To Tweet

Get your solutions faster to the customer. Get the feedback faster. Learn and adapt faster.

Use your nimbleness and agility to your advantage. While the big guys will take weeks if not months to turn around campaigns, you turn around campaigns in days.

Use the testing mindset to test various ideas and then make them work harder and faster.
If you liked the post, Do share with your friends.

Sign up for free productivity and leadership posts delivered straight to your inbox.

If you like the above post, you may also like these popular posts:

If you like these blog posts and want more, Drop your email address in any of the forms.

Want a blueprint for your success? Read this book to develop a winning mindset and launch your own Growth Rocket

Now Available on Amazon
Now Available on Amazon