Part 2: A Business Builder's Treasure Hunt

In Part 1, we offered ideas on how to identify and empower business builders. Now: Congratulations! You’ve been selected to lead a project and build something brand new. It is exciting, interesting, challenging—and daunting.

As the business builder, you have a set of objectives and a timeline to accomplish them. You have a long journey ahead, but if you reach the goal, your reward is significant. To ensure your success, here’s a treasure hunt of 12 things you need to find along the way:

1. Find inspiration
Every new idea is created in a moment of inspiration, whether planned or unplanned. Inspiration comes in many forms and is unique to each individual. It is important for business builders to find what challenges, motivates, captivates, and inspires them to think beyond the norm and create a spark.

2. Find the problem
Inspiration is like a current in the ocean that pushes you places unexpected: unless you harness that current to get where you want to go, you end up lost and out of place. Before business builders get too far down the path of inspiration, they must identify a real, painful problem—one that, if solved, would create immense value for the person or organization experiencing it.

3. Find a team
Don’t find a solution yet. Too often, people rush to the solution when they discover a problem. It’s too early, and can actually cause irreparable damage to the right solution if you try to corner the problem too soon. The first thing business builders do is find a competent, diverse team of people who will bring fresh perspectives to the problem. It’s not necessary that they commit full-time to the project, but they must be willing to go above and beyond.

4. Find the customer
Still, don’t find a solution. Find a customer who is experiencing the problem in a deep way. Ask them questions, but also engage them in a deeper, more nuanced exploration of the problem and its underlying causes. When the problem is clear, lock in your first customer so that the solution has resistance and must be adopted by them to work.

5. Find the solution
Now, you can find the solution. With a problem, a team, and a customer, you are equipped to pursue a solution that is well-rounded and that acutely addresses the problem at its core. Ideate, iterate, and articulate the solution in utmost specificity. Build prototypes, test them in real environments, and get direct feedback from your customer and other people who care.

6. Find alternatives
The chances that you will land on the right solution after one attempt are very poor. Multiple attempts are part of the process of innovation. You must create, as Rob Wolcott would say, “a portfolio of options on the future.” Don’t just create one solution; create a suite of potential solutions to your problem. At some point, you’ll need to choose one and go with it, but don’t forget the other ideas. They may have merit down the road.

7. Find an advocate
Sometimes you need people to vouch for you. In the startup setting, this is known as “network capital.” You look for money, of course, to fund your startup but you also look for strategic mentors that can make introductions, give subject matter expertise, and who will be in your corner if you get in a bind. In the corporate setting, you often need political capital before you need a budget. There is the org chart, and then there is the power chart in your organization. They often don’t look the same. Find an advocate who can pave the way for you, your team, and the proposed project.

8. Find partners
The traditional corporate mindset is to believe that the company has all the resources it needs to innovate within the company. After all, you’re in a successful firm, and you were selected for your own successes. But the skills required to create value are often very different from the skills to sustain value. Consider bringing in external partners that have aligned incentives to building something great. Startup entrepreneurs do this incessantly; corporations shouldn’t be any different.

9. Find a win
Putting a small victory on the scoreboard is one of the best things you can do in any new endeavor. You establish a proof point that you are on the right track and you earn credibility to show that you can get things done. Pick something that you have 95 percent certainty you can get done (a mockup in PowerPoint, a connection to an expert, a quick sale), get it done, and then refer to it often. People like to sponsor winners, so establish yourself as one early on.

10. Find the funding
Wow, step 10 and we still don’t have any money. Exactly. Too often, especially in corporate settings, business builders will see money as the gateway to progress and therefore stay paralyzed until they have a budget. This is exactly opposite of how people are building companies all over the world. Funding is a result of finding the nine things before this stage. An evident problem, a great team, a list of partners, an engaged customer, and a small win can go a long way to getting a check written. The project sells itself.

11. Find grit
There is a 100 percent chance that at some point of the journey your team will want to quit. They’ll get shot at (figuratively), their motives will be questioned, their efforts blocked, and they’ll be told one thing and see another. Partners will back out, a customer will waffle, and the product will start to seem lame. They’ll think the project isn’t worth the pain. Every entrepreneur hits this point. It is in this moment that you must find the inner strength and the grit to push through. This is what separates the failed projects from the thriving businesses.

12. Find the handoff
You are a business builder with the skill set to create value, but recognize that a different skill set is required to sustain it, and you may not be the right person to carry it forward. This is very hard to do, but it is necessary because it allows you to go back, get inspired, and do it all over again. You’ve established more credibility through your victories, and the wind should be at your back the next time around. The journey will get better each time.