Today I’m sharing another edition in a series of posts based on a 7×7 Mentoring Salon I did for SMW. It’s where seven up-and-coming entrepreneurs pose a question to seven experienced leaders. While the session was focused on entrepreneurism, the issues facing these 20-somethings are similar to those many women today. I’m inspired by the honest, open and smart advice these mentors offered up.
This post focuses on the question posed by Melody Wilding. Melody a licensed social worker, therapist for female entrepreneurs and young professional women…and new entrepreneur herself. In addition to her private practice, Melody is developing new offerings to build her brand as a nationally recognized expert for millennial women, and in doing so, normalize the crisis of self-doubt that many women face today. Her challenge is building a personal brand identity in a crowded field and in the somewhat taboo area of therapy and self-help.
Justin Stanwix, Director, Friends of eBay
Taylor Davidson: early stage investor, advisor, financial modeling expert and photographer
Susan McPherson: Founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good, and angel investor
Adam Quinton: Founder/CEO Lucas Point Ventures, Investor/Advisor/Board Member
Whitney Johnson, Managing Director and Founder of Springboard Ventures, co-founder of the list Forty Women OVER 40 to Watch, author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream
Melody’s question: When you are starting a business, there are so many different directions you could go. Right now I’m doing one-on-one sessions with people, but in order to scale my business, I’m considering training courses, speaking and writing books to extend the brand. However, there are a lot of options –marketing, hiring, research, outreach. How do you choose what to focus on first to give you the best 80/20 on your business? How do you prioritize the actions that will give you the maximum mileage when you have limited time and currently…only one person?
Justin. I would say hold off on speaking until you figure out what direction you want to go so you can direct the thought leadership where you want to focus. Second, try to place some metrics on each of these different types of activities. Where do you add more value than you capture? Where do you capture more value than you add? Then strike the balance between those. You will find that a lot of those activities are going to require tremendous operational effort that ultimately captures very little value. Others will be very low overhead for you and you’ll get more in return.
Taylor: The things you mentioned are tactics or products that tie into a much larger idea. I think it’s less important to think about the individual activities than the overall strategy for what you’re trying to accomplish. The actual products or tactics you are thinking about come from the core values that you create. Whether it’s speaking or books or products …they are expressions of your values that will change overtime but the core you can continue to grow over time.
There’s a question I always ask early-stage entrepreneurs. What’s the most important thing you need to achieve the next stage? It’s different for every entrepreneur…but there is a core that you have to build. What is required to monetize your core expertise… is it products or is it pure reach or distribution? –Taylor Davidson, early stage investor, startup advisor, expert in financial modeling and photographer
Melody: I think part of the struggle is choosing the best path in the short term that will ultimately lead you to that larger vision.
Taylor: Yes. So in this case, you know you need to make a platform that allows you to leverage multiple products. Think about the set of products that can be done immediately, that immediately solve a need and that capture more value than they take…but also create a platform you will leverage for later.
Susan: You may want to also look at who are the leaders are in your industry, which is very specific, and find some rock stars that you want to emulate. It doesn’t sound like brilliant advice…but it works.
Adam: I agree—the one thing that I would recommend is that you find somebody who’s done something similar to what you’re planning to do. Find someone who has scaled a relatable business and has built a brand and books, and media presence. They would give you a lot of insight as to the right way to go.
Whitney: This hits on the idea of minimum viable product. You are the minimum viable product. Right now you’re an idea-preneur. That means you have to figure out what you have to say that is unique to the world. It will probably take you a few years to figure out exactly what that is so I would spend as much time as you possibly can writing. Writing forces you to figure out what you really think. Secondly, I would spend time doing videos—get 10 to 30 second videos out there. Figure out how to SEO them and figure out what gains traction. Do some speaking because you get to see what people are responding to. Videos and speaking will build your IP and, oh by the way, it costs you very little. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on training right now because you may decide in two years time or even a years time that the thing that what you thought you needed to train everybody in is not at all what they need and then you’ve spent $30,000. So focus on minimum viable product …with you as the product.
More About Melody
Melody has helped women running some of today’s top startups along with published authors and media personalities. Her advice has been featured on Glamour.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Muse, and more. She has a Masters from Columbia University and a degree in Psychology from Rutgers University. Find her at http://www.melodywilding.com and follow her on Twitter at @MelodyWilding.