Look before you leap
From the outside, it may have looked like I quit my big corporate job and set out to figure out what was next for me. But that’s not at all how it went down. I spent almost two years working on Fly Feet, a boutique fitness studio, before I left. Fly Feet is a total body workout that uses running (the most functional form of movement) as a tool for intensity. There are many things I wanted to do differently to stand out in a crowded marketplace; an inclusive brand that meets you where you are, a more robust coaching model, programming similar to that of pro athletes but that is scalable for even people who have been out of the fitness game for a bit. To do this, I couldn't just cruise pinterest and dream, although I did that too. I did a TON of real work for two reasons:
- I needed to be sure before I left my cushy job that there was a real market opportunity for what I wanted to do.
- I needed time to make sure in my heart that this risk was right for me and our family.
I hired a local research firm for focus groups and strategy work to get super clear on our proposition. I traveled to industry conferences. I hired a branding agency to developing the brand and the style guide. I launched a webpage. I met with everyone I could in the industry to pick their brains. Every time I traveled, I went to every possible boutique fitness studio across the country. It was a legit side hustle. I got up every morning at 4:15 to work. (Next blog will be on sleep debt.) I did all of this while never taking my foot off the gas at my day job. (A job I loved.)
It was fun for me. A passion. A creative outlet. And, I spent a fair amount of money trying to figure it out. I was ok if in the end I decided to stay at my job, because it would have been money well spent to determine whether or not I should make the next step. By the time I left my job, the brand was built, our lease was signed, the business plan was built, and we were rolling toward launch.
I’m not saying you need to spend two years and a bunch of money to make the leap. But I am saying that you for sure have to move past the dreaming, pinterest phase. The closer you can get toward a thorough business plan with numbers and consumer insights, the better. And if you're not willing to spend the time and money to do that, your dream is probably better left as a dream. (Sooooo, I guess I AM actually saying that you should spend time and money before you make the leap.) Here are my thoughts on where to start...
Write a one pager
If you can’t get a summary of your whole business plan out in one page, it’s not clear enough. Going through this exercise helps to sort out what you want to do. Just get it down – it’s doesn’t have to be perfect. Answer the who, what, where, why questions. This one pager will be your guide and will constantly evolve as you're working on your business plan.
Develop a question roadmap
You will have way more questions than answers. Get them all down and use that as your roadmap to do the real work to figure out if your idea is one you’re willing to make the leap for.
Spend some money
Don't be afraid to invest in figuring out if your idea is worth foregoing your steady paycheck. For me, hiring an agency, doing market research, and developing the brand was not cheap. I spent tens of thousands of dollars before I quit my job because it was work I knew I had to do anyway, and it allowed me to really see if there was a meaningful market opportunity. Spend enough to prove to yourself that your idea is worth it.
Test your idea
Is there a way to get your idea out there into the hearts and minds of consumers (not your friends) for feedback? Even just a minimum viable product? A mock up? A story board? You need to talk to people who don't know you to understand what the market will think of your concept. For me, I couldn't open a pop up studio for Fly Feet, so I did several rounds of focus groups with an agency to learn about how consumers thought about their fitness routines, and introduced them to our concept. I learned A LOT... and some of it was hard to hear. And then I went back to revise the plan and the question roadmap. Always an iterative process.
Don't be in a hurry. You need time. Time to figure out if in your heart it feels right. Time to work through the business plan. Time to really think about what tradeoffs you’re making leaving a stable job for a risky one. If you spend time doing real work, this is time well spent and you’ll make the right decision. If you spend time just making a kickass pinterest board of your idea, you’ll probably end up not exactly where you want to be.
In the end, what gets you the support you need for your dream - whether it's financing, signing a lease, a contract with a manufacturer, whatever, is a solid business plan. Don't leave your day job on a dream. Leave it with your business plan.