In 1982, I had an idea for a business.
I ran ad advertisement in a dozen college newspapers with the headline “Cruise Ship Jobs.” The ad copy then spelled out the many benefits of my $5 cruise ship directory.
I thought college students might be attracted to this opportunity – and I was right. The response was overwhelming. So, to meet the demand, I had to hustle to get the directory written, edited, and printed as soon as possible.
This is one application of the Ready, Fire, Aim principle of business building that Michael Masterson talks about in his new book “Automatic Wealth”.
Basically, “Ready, Fire, Aim” means that if you have an idea for launching a new business or product, don’t waste time. Go ahead and do what you have to do to make sure the idea works. You’ll be able to fill in the blanks later.
I’ve been doing it that way for years.
I was Ready with my concept and a well-thought-out outline for the cruise ship directory. And I Fired with my ad. Then I took Aim on the actual product.
The cruise ship directory was fairly comprehensive. It listed every cruise ship operator in the world, job descriptions, pay scales, benefits, lifestyle profiles, and, of course, complete and up-to-date contact information.
It also included a bonus report titled “How to Obtain a Temporary, Part-Time or Full-Time Cruise Ship Job.” A human resources director who had more than 15 years of experience wrote the report. (She had agreed to write it in exchange for having her contact information included in the directory.)
Eight days after the initial ad ran, my mailbox was stuffed with envelopes and $5 bills.
I was thrilled and a little nervous – but I was pretty sure my customers would be happy with my hastily produced directories. I shipped each one on the same day I received the order. And if anyone asked for their money back (actually, there were only three dissatisfied customers), I promptly mailed it to them.
Most would-be entrepreneurs tend to sit around and talk about their ideas and business plans instead of taking action. But something “magical” happens after you make the first sale. The whole thing takes on new meaning – because you now know that you really do have something people want.
Ready. Fire. Aim.
Do you have a product or service and a good idea of how to deliver it? If so, you’re Ready.
So Fire! Test it out with a small ad. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
You’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune (Aim) your product, service, and marketing. But nothing can replace the energy that propels your business forward when you make that first sale.
Here’s another example…
In 1995, I was sitting on the beach in Owls Head, Maine, eating fresh crabmeat rolls. And I had an idea. I wondered if 5-star chefs in the Midwest (where I grew up) would appreciate fresh-picked crabmeat from the Gulf of Maine.
Restaurants are infamous for not paying their bills. So I decided to focus my sales efforts on established chefs who would be willing to pay the same day they received the product. Those chefs not only had the kind of customers who would appreciate fresh Gulf of Maine crabmeat, I figured they could not afford to tarnish their reputations by failing to pay a small seafood company.
Rather than invest in business cards, accounting software, and fancy four-color brochures, I went to the library and grabbed a recent issue of Gourmet magazine. In the back of the magazine, they list 4- and 5-star restaurants. I picked out three in the Midwest and jotted down the chefs’ names and addresses.
Then I wrote a convincing two-page sales letter. I described the difference between the so-called “fresh” crabmeat that most seafood vendors sell and the crabmeat that I would ship to the chef’s kitchen within 24 hours of its being landed. I asked if they thought their guests could tell the difference. And I included a small six-ounce container of fresh Gulf of Maine crabmeat.
All three chefs called me within one hour of receiving the package!
I knew I had a winner. So then I worked on developing a profitable pricing and shipping structure.
Ready. Fire. Aim.
Focus on making the first sale. There are few things in business as exciting as that moment. Your heart starts pumping faster, because now you know you can make your idea work.