If you want to start and grow a startup, you’ll find lots of help on the internet. However, many of these resources offer too many complex checklists and unrelatable scenarios. Here is a simple four-part framework I learned from “I Want This to Exist” mastermind group. I’ve collaborated with Edmund to write this article.
I run Aurasky, a digital marketing agency with my brother, Nava, in India. Our agency’s most requested service is visual media and marketing. Though our business is experiencing substantial growth, we often struggle to manage new demands. If we add just one more client, we won’t be able to serve them adequately.
It’s a great problem to have! We know that we are in demand.
But the highly skilled and unique nature of our service makes it really hard to be outsourced or automated to deliver the quality we provide.
Solution: Aurasky needs to hire and train more staff
But this is where we face a huge obstacle. My brother and I are not comfortable managing people. We are more inclined to be specialists, not managers.
So we need a solution that accommodates our limitations and leverages our strengths. While I was searching, I got one of the best answers from Edmund. He advised us to copy other businesses and leaders we want to emulate and/or surpass, in a specific order of priority.
Here’s a synopsis of Edmund’s advice on copying mental, business, and performance models:
1. Copy the Mental Model
Edmund advises that our first priority should be to copy the mental models of those we seek to emulate. In other words, copy how they think. According to the influential Farnam Street blog, mental models are
“How we understand the world… Mental models are how we simplify complexity, why we consider some things more relevant than others, and how we reason. A mental model is simply a representation of how something works… so we use [them] to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks.”
“Make this a priority!” Edmund suggests.
Adopting mental models of successful businesses and founders will do much more than copying how they make money or how they measure success.
Here are two awesome books on mental models:
- Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCaan.
- The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish.
Once you are able to copy the way your role models think, you’ll be more capable of adapting their perspectives for your unique situation.
2. Copy the Business Model
This is where you start copying how those you admire actually make a profit. Consider the following business models and find the one that best fits your offering. For example:
- B2B businesses such as SaaS, coaching or consulting businesses may rely on channel partnerships in their business model to leverage high value nodes in their network to sell higher ticket products and services.
- B2C businesses may focus on a freemium model, while leveraging their advertising and marketing reach to deliver incremental revenue.
- Service businesses could use subscription models to drive sustainable revenue over the lifetime of the customer; or rely on personalised “high touch” offerings and communication that provides differentiated profits.
- Product-led businesses may rely on one-time fees to sell their products.
Tools such as the Business Model Canvas or similar other frameworks can help.
I figured there 3 key ways to make money selling digital products/ services
- Creating and selling infoproducts/ eBooks
- Offering online workshops & coaching
- Selling consultancy services
We soon realized that given our specific set of skills and temperament, the best way to make money is to offer high-touch industry specific B2B services. By nature of the industry’s maturity, we have this B2B front to a specific client segment. So in some ways, we are already sorted, up and running.
Sathya’s conclusion: While this framework may be useful in the beginning of the business journey, it’s not applicable for my current situation.
3. Copy the Measurement/ Metric framework
Creating SMART goals, tracking metrics, Peter Drucker’s management by objectives (MBO), Google’s OKR frameworks are all examples for this way of thinking.
But… I’m a process person. And I prefer to be that way.
I stopped taking goals seriously and got tired of tracking outcome metrics, especially as the pandemic ensued. Like most of you, I was overwhelmed by the amount of uncertainty the lockdown and subsequent economic slumber brought in.
I also understand that for a small business, it would rather be useful to measure input/ process, rather than output/ goals.
Outcomes are often the result of many factors, which unfortunately one cannot control. So from a philosophical standpoint too, focusing on your actions makes more sense.
As Epictetus would say, ‘Focus on things you can control and let go of that you cannot!’
- Number of tweets as against number of followers
- Number of newsletters published against number of subscribers
- Number of products launched/ projects completed as against revenue generated
While goals do give us directional clarity, both at personal and professional level, I’m becoming more of a process person. Due credit goes to Atomic Habits by James Clear, How to Fail Often and Still Win Big by Scott Adams who instilled in me that focusing on daily habits/ routines/ systems/ processes are better predictors of success than focusing on goals.
As James Clear says,
“Winners and losers at the Olympics, all have the same goal.”
I was able to bring this into practice, through my post-pandemic creative endeavours in growing a Twitter audience and creating Daily Visuals (thanks to Craig Burgess for living it by example).
4. Copy the Systems framework
The idea is to create systems and processes in your business which would help you to delegate, outsource or even automate businesses and manage people in a far more efficient way.
There is nothing new about this, but I liked Edmund’s meta-level framing of these concepts in an easy to understand and practical manner.
As you would have realized, for my current situation, I bet the third framework would fit better. According to the model, you create a repeatable procedure where someone else can actually do the job so that it frees you up thinking capacity, mental space of doing the job.
Work the System is a book that actually dives into this much more deeply, much more strongly, and creating his own piece is basically the idea, right, you create procedures, working procedures so that someone can actually do it, and free yourself for doing the task. Download the entire process step by step from my head how I’m doing it. I take a piece of it, and delegate it to the particular person that I think.
Some examples of tasks that I’m currently thinking that could be systematised are:
- Downloading and organizing the client files
- Formatting the reports that needs to be submitted to the clients
- Creating client specific reporting templates
- Copy-pasting and uploading the final report on to the online management tool
We have hired a couple of staff who are helping us in doing admin tasks, working for 2–4 hours per day. But we need more.
Think about the phase of your own startup!
What’s the current needs of your business?
What’s the specific issue(s) you’re facing?
Now ask yourself, what’s the model/ framework that you can copy and adopt for it?
Share in the comments below, we will share our feedback on it.
All the very best!