One of the biggest advantages I have as a writer is that I'm still trying to figure out this whole entrepreneurship thing myself. This means I'm able to talk about problems as they're still fresh in my memory and elaborate on minor points that experts usually overlook.
In contrast, the biggest strength of experts is that they're able to be concise. Someone like Andrew Wilkinson can distill decades of experience into less than 140 characters:
Similarly, Rob Walling writes:
“Millions of people in this world can build software. A fractional subset of those can build software and convince people to buy it. [...] Putting a value on your time is a foundational step in becoming an entrepreneur, and it’s one many entrepreneurs never take.”
These observations get right to the core of what entrepreneurship is all about. But what exactly is that core they're dancing around? What is entrepreneurship truly all about? What is that elusive, hard to define, $10,000 per hour work I should be focusing on?
I think I'm slowly starting to understand and hopefully I'll be able to unpack it a little bit in this post.
First of all, I noticed as I reflected on my progress that so far, I've primarily created jobs for myself. Gum Spy, like Product Explorer and my personal branding efforts are basically just part-time jobs I created for myself. Let's call this weak entrepreneurship. It's where most aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck. Just spend a few minutes browsing through IndieHackers to see this for yourself.
The observation that I was only engaging in a weak form of entrepreneurship also led me to the conclusion that I need a vastly different approach if I truly want to level up this year. Little tweaks here and there won't do the trick. I need to radically change how I approach my projects.
As I tried to remember what I read about entrepreneurship over the years, the fog slowly lifted and a picture started to emerge. To level up to a stronger form of entrepreneurship I need to focus on three essential cornerstones:
- Providing Value
- Developing Systems
- Utilizing Leverage
The only reason why you might call what I did so far entrepreneurship at all, is that thanks to my (still modest) programming skills I was able to leverage my own time at least a little bit to provide some value. But there's still a lot of room. And more importantly, I completely ignored the remaining cornerstone (Developing Systems) so far.
Now you might think: "Jakob, this is all completely obvious stuff. You only have a real business if it would work without you, yada yada..."
Yes and no. Firstly, it's easy to know these phrases but a completely different thing to understand what they're really all about. I'm now convinced that to truly understand them, you have to experience it for yourself.
And secondly, there's also a lot more to it. Let's consider Product Explorer as an example. Could I fully automatize it and turn it into a truly passive source of income? Yes, certainly. The quality of the product would probably drop, but I could certainly pull it off.
The problem here is that just by introducing more automations, I'm not providing more value. Sure I would free up a bit of my time. But my goal isn't to hang out on a beach in Bali living off my passive income. I want to take my ventures to the next level and automatizations alone won't get me there.
Product Explorer is already 80% automated and getting rid of the remaining 20% would be quite a lot of work. So, my time is better spent focusing on the other cornerstones.
Now I already talked quite a lot about the "providing value" aspect in my product strategy post, so I won't dive into any details here. But in short, so far I focused far too much on what I could do and not enough on what I should do. I need to focus on the real reasons why people purchase my products and then figure out a way to 10x the value I'm providing. For example, a database with data on thousands of Product Hunt launches might be nice, but for someone looking to buy an abandoned asset, a detailed post that focuses on just five incredible opportunities will be worth a lot more.
Having nailed the "What", I have to figure out the "How".
Code is certainly a good place to start. But it's also the laziest form of leverage for an introvert like me. The oldest and most important form of leverage is human labor. There is still so much you can't do with code and done right, having another human do work for you will at least 2x the value you can provide.
But human labor as a form of leverage turned out to be incredibly important for another far more important reason I didn't expect at all.
Only once I started to combine different forms of leverage I started to understand what all this talk about systems is all about. While idea sex is at the heart of creativity, leverage sex is at the heart of entrepreneurship. In both cases, we're truly dealing with a situation where 1+1 equals 3 or even 10.
The most important aspect is that if you want to combine different forms of leverage you're forced to develop systems to make it work. And this is when the true entrepreneurial magic starts to happen.
Now as I said, I'm still trying to figure out all this stuff myself. But just yesterday a light bulb went on over my head and I thought "Oh, that's what everyone is talking about". Hence I immediately started to write, fearing that I'm no longer able to explain it later due to the curse of knowledge.
The backstory is that I recently hired a full-time assistant, and I'm now in the middle of systematizing all kinds of processes to make the two forms of leverage (human labor + code) work together.
I feel like that only now I'm starting to think entrepreneurial.
When I'm working on the projects I want to launch his year, I'm constantly asking myself: What exactly are the steps that need to be done so that I can provide the value I have in mind?
When I go through my to-do list I ask: Is this really what I should be spending my time on?
This is exactly what Naval, Rob, and Andrew are talking about. I know that I promised to unpack their statements, and I’m just realizing that my elaborations might seem just as cryptic as theirs.
So soon as I'm able to understand a bit better what's working, I'll write a few detailed posts on the exact systems I’ve developed and on how and why I hired an assistant.
I'll keep you updated,