The 7 day startup is an insightful journey from the author Dan Norris and his lessons of stumbling to create his runout success WP Curve (afterward acquired by Godaddy). The book focuses heavily on the often too-common mistakes founders make while getting something launched, and his formula to avoid these hurdles. You may have experienced or seen it taking months or even years for founders to get ideas launched. This book breaks down how to launch your idea in 7 days. Avoid focusing on what doesn’t matter and get moving on what matters most to get your business immediate traction.
This book made me think about my first business I started, which was a Window Cleaning service when I was 17. Although I got to market pretty quick, I spent way too much time working on the logo, business cards, and flyers for the business. I really thought these would be the most important part of the business. It was at least a month before I launched and started selling. A month of lost time. It’s so easy to focus on the “movements” that feel like traction and avoid the “challenging” high-leverage tasks that actually drive you forward. Why? Because they are hard.
We navigate to what is easy and less painful. I think it is just human nature.
This takes a lot of self-awareness and accountability when you launch something. I see it happen all the time even with seasoned entrepreneurs. I think having a framework and the principles from this book will really help you get to a paying customer faster, no matter where you are in your journey. Just having this book as a resource to keep you dialed in when starting a new idea, I think, can be very powerful in ensuring you focus on what you absolutely need to.
After I finished the book, I personally took the 7 day challenge of starting a new business in 7 days to put the process to the test. It was eye-opening and probably the fastest I started a business ever. I really enjoyed focusing on the necessary, having a clear task each day, and also the accountability in my FB group as I posted an update each day to track the progress. That combined allowed me to really make some rapid progress. It has me thinking more of hosting these types of challenges. If you would like to see the challenge of me building a productized service in 7 days, here is the thread in the FB Group.
Below are my biggest takeaways from this book that I think could be valuable as you build your productized service businesses:
1. Stop Obsessing
When we come up with an idea for a business, we tend to instantly become emotionally attached to this idea. In most cases way too much. We obsess over this idea, we want it to be perfect, and we have a very clear vision of what this idea will look like, often with very little flexibility in our minds of anything else. We quickly are battle-ready to defend this idea from criticism and outside feedback. This can be a dangerous trap to fall in, which is why so many people fail to do what is most important–which is put the idea in its most acceptable raw form in front of people and ask for money. The key is to do this quickly. When you obsess over your ideas and try to make them perfect, it slows you down. The opportunity costs are simply too high. At the start, people aren’t paying you for the perfect website, logo, business cards, onboarding process, email copy, etc.
2. Validation Illusions
This was one of my favorite takeaways in the book because it really hit home for me. I think idea validation is really important. Yet it is very easy to get tricked into thinking you have validated something solely because people are saying yes, or have given you their emails. You see, validation doesn’t work well when the answer isn’t an obvious “YES”. This comes in the form of them putting money where their mouth is and actually paying for your “thing”. This can even be hard to analyze when you pre-sell at a discount as well because you aren’t validating the true price of your product. I have had so many business ideas and concepts that people have given me praise for, yet never actually paid me. People are nice and don’t want to say no or hurt your feelings. It is more important at this phase to really be honest and don’t assume anything because it can be very dangerous in thinking you have something when you might not.
3. Restraints & Parkinson’s Law
This has continued to be a powerful lesson. The entire book and 7 day philosophy is built around creating restraints (7 days) and pushing yourself to really focus on the most vital to get to market fast. Parkinson’s Law is always something to audit yourself on because it is easy to give yourself a large runway of time for a project. It’s important to know, like anything, the more time, space, and energy you allow something to fill that area it will. So challenge yourself here to create shorter deadlines, less space, and more restraints to be able to get more done quicker. My belief is when you can couple this with accountability, it can really be powerful to get things done faster than you ever thought.
I really love this part of the book. Subtle but extremely powerful. Visualize your business in the future based on how you have just designed it. Imagine 10, 50, 100 customers entering your machine. What does it look like? What is breaking? What are you doing everyday? Are you stoked? Far too many of us do something or set things up quickly without thinking of the 2nd order consequences of that action. It actually doesn’t take that much time to do this exercise and is something I have enjoyed doing as frequently as possible. Even for the business I started using this challenge, there was a huge reflection point with how I was setting up operations that would have made things much more complicated. By doing this exercise, I was able to see that at scale it would be a model I wouldn’t like, so I immediately changed it.
5. Forget About Automation
I really like this point. For me, I’m obsessed with tools, automation, systems, etc., so it is very easy for me to get lost for hours doing this type of work. I really enjoy it, but this isn’t the best use of my time, especially when starting a company. Dan stresses in the book to do everything manual at first and forget automations. This not only allows you to launch quickly but also learn a lot about what you actually need to automate. This again shifts your focus on what is most vital at the start.
7 Day Startup Thinking Time Questions:
- How might I launch a new business in 7 days that I’m thinking about right now?
- Where am I making assumptions when it comes to actually validating an idea I have?
- Where in my business can I implement Parkinson’s Law to be more efficient?
- Visualize my business in a year with 10X the number of customers than today. What does it look like? What am I doing on a daily basis? What is working really well? What is completely broken?
- What core things in my business can I just do manually to learn and launch faster? What am I trying to automate that just isn’t important right now?