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I'm Bryan Scordato, and this is the idea to startup podcast brought to you by Tacklebox. We accelerate ideas into real companies through the tacklebox membership, and we think through startup strategy every Wednesday on the idea to startup podcast. You're here because you're thinking about an idea, or you're ready to launch something, or you already launched something and you're running full steam ahead. We're here to help with the counterint, to it. Today, we have no time to waste. We're going to talk through a startup idea while weaving in three things pros do and amateur don't. And despite one of my favorite things in life being biting off more than I can chew, this episode is a lot. It's maybe even more ambitious than my dog Ruby, who last week while we were hiking, tried to pick up and drag a full-size tree that'd fallen across the path. The thing was easily eight inches in diameter and 40 feet long. She obviously couldn't budget, but she just stood there, tree in her mouth, refusing to move, looking at me with eyes saying, Little help, dad? I finally convinced her to leave, but about a hundred yards down the path, she turned and sprinted back to the tree with the urgency of someone in an '80s movie trying to tell their crush they were in love with them the whole time, right before they board a plane to Paris to start a new life.


After starting the episode by saying, We have no time to waste, I sure did waste the last 30 seconds of both of our lives, but I stand by it because the Paris joke made me laugh. Anyway, we've got pro things to get through today. Things our best entrepreneurs do that the others don't. The gap between pro and amateur is something I don't think people pay enough attention to. We approach lots of things like amateur and then are surprised when we don't get pro results. This is especially true in the startup world, mostly because it's unlikely you've ever seen a pro entrepreneur, so you don't know what that entails. Today, we'll show you what a pro looks like, and we'll apply the pro tactics to a startup idea as we go. Ruby couldn't move that tree, but maybe we can. The idea we'll use today is controversial. Maybe? I'm not sure. But we're all friends here. We'll get through it. Here's the email that spurred the pod with the writer's okay, of course. Hey, love the show. Editor's note, I always feel like Mike Francis on a sports talk show when we get emails that start like this, I expect them to continue with something like Salfor Marancana, first time long time.


Another very specific reference. Sorry, back to the email. I want to start a business next year, but I'm not totally set on an idea. There are two things converging that I think are interesting, and I'd like to explore them. First, a big trend is that school in the US is broken. College is broken, preschool is broken, it's all broken. Teachers are unhappy and underpaid, and there aren't enough of them. I should know I was one. College prices are exploding, despite tech making everything else in the world cheaper, and we're lagging other countries in basically every educational metric. You say that when you start a business, you should look for people who have already changed their behavior rather than trying to convince people to change their behavior to start. After a bunch of exploring, I've landed on a space within education: homeschooling. It predictably ballooned during COVID, up 61% in 2020, but the number hasn't regressed as it's still up 51% over 2017. The uptick is driven by people who describe themselves as, quote, very religious, but just 26% of people report having a great deal or a lot of trust in the state to educate their kids and are, quote, open to alternatives.


This is the lowest rate in 50 years, and it's not necessarily one or the other. Lots of people are homeschooling until kindergarten or middle school or creating pre-k groups that meet at one parent's house each week. As a next teacher, this is terrifying because teaching kids is hard and you should definitely be trained to do it. But I also think there's opportunity here. Creating a viable alternative might push policy and urgency with schools. As an ex-educator, I have ideas. And as you say, businesses should ride away not try to create one. The other trend is obviously AI, ChatGPT, and all that. My thinking is an app that helps people homeschool their kids in subjects they aren't experts in. Duolingo has taught millions of people languages, so it's possible, right? I know this is an all babies or cute thing, but I think it might be worth digging in on. Any thoughts? I do have thoughts, and right off the bat, I'll say my knee-jerk reaction was to ignore the email. I am a product of public schools. I love public schools, and my initial bias is that homeschooling your kids is as much of a mistake as home doctoring them would be.


But I've learned that whenever you have that immediate reaction towards something, especially something you aren't really that familiar with — I've never met anyone homeschooled nor seen what that might look like, it's probably worth resisting the initial urge and exploring. If you have an immediate uncomfortable response, that means lots of people like you will have that same response, which means the idea might go underexplored, which means opportunity, maybe. If that hadn't been enough, the final thought of the email roped me in. It said, quote, My goal is to get a promising idea by the end of next year. I've had ideas for years, but none ever seemed strong enough to pursue, but I think I'm just going to start. I'm sick of waiting. I like the homeschooling AI space, but I'm not married to it. My question is, if we fast forward to the end of the year and I've been successful, I'm working on something worthwhile and we work backwards from that point, what's the likeliest path to get there? What are the repeated activities I can do each week and month that'll end up spinning out a good idea as a byproduct? And as you probably assumed, I have a full-time job.


I'd like to leave it as soon as I can, but I'll be testing this before I quit. Now, that is an awesome question. This person employed one of my favorite tactics to tell the story of future you, then work backwards and find daily, weekly, monthly actions that are most likely to result in that story. Actions that can't help but result in that story. I want to learn Italian this year is way different from in a year, if I'm able to speak conversational Italian, what did my weeks probably have to look like to get there? That is sneaky entrepreneur pro-tactic number one, to constantly be telling your future story, describing the state you want to reach, then working backwards from it. If I ask all of our best founders where they want to be in five years, what their biggest dreams are, they can tell me. They've thought about it. And if I ask them to tie that vision back to the things they do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, they can. They're doing the sorts of things that could lead to the outcome they want. But when you ask most people, probably 95% of people to tell you their big five-year dreams, they don't have an answer.


And if they do, it's rare you can tie their current actions to that goal. The five-year goal will be ambitious. The daily actions would never lead to it. We float too much and floating on entrepreneurs aren't successful. I've spoken with a bunch of you over the past few months, and I know there are a lot of listeners in this exact place. You've got a loose idea or a couple of loose ideas, nothing fully formed, nothing you're totally married to. But you'd like to be fully working on an idea a year from now, and in five, you'd like to be running a successful business. This is the best time to start before you're ready because the magic comes after you start not before. So what do you do? Well, you build an SOP, of course, so that you can master the two things pros always master: repetition and reflection. We'll get to it after a quick word from our friends at Build. This episode of idea to startup is brought to you by Build, B-Y-L-D-D. Build is a development agency that we trust. A number of our non-technical founders have used them to build successful revenue-generating products.


Other businesses they've helped build have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, gotten into accelerator programs like Y Combinator, and raised millions from VCs. Build is uniquely positioned to help non-technical founders get their first product out. Usually, this is a disaster for all the reasons you already know. Finding a CTO is hard and unlikely. Hiring a CTO is hard and unlikely. Hiring a Dev shop is a black box, and unless you're spending 200k or more, it's unlikely your project will be a priority. Hiring developers off of Upwork and managing them yourself is probably the least likely to work of the three. Or you could work with Build. For 10k in roughly a month's work, they'll get the first version of your product up and out. Reach out to build@byld. Com. Ask forayush and say you came from idea to startup. In a month, you could have a revenue-generating product. Back to it. Sops. There's a quote by molecular biologist Francis Crick, the DNA structure guy you've almost certainly heard of, that I love. It goes, quote, It is amateur who have one big, bright, beautiful idea that they can never abandon. Professionals know that they have to produce theory after theory before they're likely to hit the jackpot.


There's another quote I'll toss in here from our good friend Kunal Shah, Practice without feedback only results in activity, not mastery. Both are true for startups. The way to end up with a great startup idea in a year is to test out lots of startup ideas during that year. It's not to make whatever idea you have now great, it's to search and recognize. So if our homeschooling friend tested out a new idea within the homeschooling space each month in a year, I'm confident he'd end up with a problem we're solving. Maybe that'd be the idea he tested out month four or month eleven, but most likely it'll be some combination. But if he puts in that type of effort, he'd have the context necessary to make a decision. This is hard. Testing 10 ideas in a year is a lot. You need a system that helps you close the feedback loop on those ideas, or else you'd just wander around aimlessly like my son when he crawles into a room he hasn't seen before. He just found my closet the other day and was blown away. He looked around like he was in Narnia. Unfortunately, this type of rigorous testing isn't in our homeschool friends or anyone's nature.


No one has that type of perspective or patience. So when I thought about the skills this founder would need to end up with a good idea in a year, it came down to two: repetition and reflection. Now, let's talk about systems. A few weeks ago, we talked about building systems to help you stay in the chaos world a little longer. Last week, we talked about the systems an interior designer builds to automate her business. People freaked out, particularly about the interior designer. They loved it. They emailed me lots of specific questions like, Should I get an air table yearly plan along with Zapier and Miro and Clavio? Or, Should I hire someone to help me build this? Or, If I swap Notion for air table, is that still okay? This made me realize that I forgot step one of every system, the SOP. People hadn't learned how to scramble an egg, and they were asking about models for Sous Vide. If you're in the corporate world, you're probably familiar with SOPs or standard operating procedures. They're documents that tell you step by step how to do complex stuff. Sops are painfully corporate. I know the Squares who work at Deloitte just got very excited.


Well, you win this round of Squares because SOPs are magical. They allow you to offload process to someone new and have them operate as if they're seasoned. They create the conditions for consistent success. For entrepreneurs, they're step one of your internal system. This might seem counterint, too, as a solo founder. Why create process when it's just you? But this is the best time to do it. The return couldn't be higher. Repetition and reflection. I build SOPs for every process that anchors my business and my life. I build them for stuff in my home. Hvac Making Sounds, better believe I've got an SOP for it. Whenever I have to do anything more than twice, I start building an SOP for it. This started with my old boss when I was doing venture stuff. On my first day, he tossed me a pitch deck on my desk along with a printed-out SOP that taught me exactly how to read, evaluate, and write a one-page summary for any new pitch deck. The top of the page had a goal listed, Determine if an in-person meeting is required. The SOP told me what numbers to pull out and how to calculate them if they weren't there.


It gave me the location of reference material if I didn't understand a medical concept. I was given a list of all the companies we'd invested in and a description of what a conflict might look like. I was given a template for an email saying we'd like to schedule a meeting or that we were unfortunately passing, and a template to send my results to my boss. These documents were ever evolving. If I ran into something the SOP didn't have an answer for, there was a line at the bottom teaching me how to add it. When someone new was hired, they were given a stack of SOPs, which sounds constricting, but it was actually freeing. I'd evaluate the deck through the lens of the firm's goals, then give my opinion on it with that perspective in mind. I have an SOP for inbound emails from tacklebox members that's linked to a database for all the questions I've answered for members since 2016. I find the relevant answer, make sure it's still my opinion, change or tweak the Master if it isn't, then send. This helps me give the best possible answer in the fastest possible time. I've got a detailed SOP for writing a podcast, an SOP for recording one, and an SOP for dispensing it after it goes live.


Once I feel good about the pieces of an SOP, I automate them or I outsource them. Zapier, Fiverr, Airtable, and EA, they all come after the written SOP is executed manually a bunch. Once I'd edited the podcast a few times and I knew how I liked it, I found a way to outsource that. That is what an SOP becomes, identification for the processes that need you to happen and clarity around the ones that can be taken off your plate. Back to SOPs for our friend trying to get an idea by the end of next year. What I would recommend for him and for anyone with similar ambitions is to start with an SOP for finding problems worth solving, to productize that process, to treat it like a professional. When I sent him this advice along with the SOP we were about to talk through, he responded immediately, pushing back on the problem piece. I get problem is important, he said, but don't we have to be thinking in terms of solution too? I can't pitch a problem, can I? The answer is, it's the only thing you can pitch. What we're trying to do initially, the first step with our customers, is understand their language, the terms they use to think about the problem, how they describe success after solving it, the risks they see for changing behavior, the influencers who will be involved.


A good problem drives everything. This is a big mistake our founders make. They think the language of their customer is solution-based because it's just way more fun and easier that way. Entrepreneurs communicate that way. I build an app similar to Duolingo that'll teach your kid fractions. Do you want it? But think about it in another context. If your car is sputtering and you drive by a billboard that says 50% off carburetors, you'll keep on driving. But if the billboard says your car is sputtering and you aren't sure if it's serious, you're going to pay attention. The more specific you are on problem description, the more likely the conversion. Humans speak problem. Since everything is downstream of how well you can describe a problem someone wants to solve, that is where we start. On to the specific SOP. Here's how you do it. Pull up a document, label it SOP for finding problems worth solving, and create a goal. Maybe something like a one-month sprint to decide if the problem is worth a second month of testing. Next, list your hypothesis. Something like, I think X problem is, and then one or a few of painful, urgent, expensive, growing, frequent, and it's a problem that customers want a solution to.


For the Math AI tool, which she didn't have a name for, but I'm calling Fraction Bronson because to the seven people who get that joke, it's pretty good. The problem hypothesis might be, quote, parents can't help their kids with sixth grade and above math, and they urgently need to find a way to do that. This problem language will obviously evolve as you speak with customers. Your honed problem language should eventually sound like a secret. Something like, quote, our customers can't teach seventh grade math because that introduces calculus and the series of books they use to help teach their kids K-6 math ends at calculus or whatever. The more specific the language, the more compelling. But that'll come. I usually categorize my SOPs, and the first chunk of this one is what I call Speak the Language. Step one for Speak the Language might be to speak to two dozen people that have a perspective on the problem. For our friend, people that are homeschooling their kids, people building tools for people homeschooling their kids, and probably some kids being homeschooled too. This is where the magic of the SOP starts to kick in. Normally, this would be an incredibly overwhelming moment, but when you build the SOP, you're thinking about building out the playbook, something you can build process around and eventually get off your plate.


You might start with a list titled Do these five things on day one to get started with inbound. Here they are. Email to 25 friends who might be customers with an interview request with a link to a cold email template you've used in the past. Linkedin message to 25 friends asking for an intro to their LinkedIn connection who might be a customer for a cold email with a template and instructions on how to search friends-friends on LinkedIn. A post on LinkedIn with a calendar link complete with template for posts on LinkedIn. Identify three niche channels and post in those with a link to a template and ways to find niche channels. Then finally, maybe something like, try one new creative thing specific to the idea and document it with a link to creative channels or inspiration for past attempts. As you detail the process, you can see how it'd be easy to start outsourcing chunks of this to Fiverr, or how you could add an item specifically for Fiverr. Hire someone to send cold emails to 250 customers, say. You could have a Loom video showing the type of person you'd like to chat with and templates for the emails.


You can also see how the customer will start to flesh itself out. Finding unique channels they'll be in is an exercise in customer acquisition. Speaking with people building tools for them helps you understand the competitive landscape. You can certainly add other tools early, email tools to track open, support from EAs, whatever. But even if you do all of this manually, you'll still be off and running. The next section of the SOP might teach you what to do once someone schedules an interview? It could be a structure of questions, a video on best practices or notes from the book The Mom Test, or clips from idea to startup. It could be software used to record conversations, a checklist to print out and keep handy while you run the interview that says something like, quote, you can't earn anything if you're talking at the top. A document to fill out right after the interview that asks a few questions. How does the customer solve the problem now? Is it painful, urgent, expensive, frequent growing? What's the solution now out of 10? When the last time they changed behavior? Who else is involved in decisions? Is this customer accessible?


Do they have budget? How would they describe success? Finally, you might have a section on stakes. Given all the above for this customer, whatare the stakes, what are the stakes? What happens if the problem is solved and what happens if it isn't. The stakes piece is an interesting one that gets overlooked, but it's really the whole thing. Since the founder mentioned Duolingo, I actually think it's a great example of stakes. If you think about the business, you might think the stakes are low. It's a bunch of people trying to learn second, third languages. But Duolingo didn't start with that customer. They started by teaching English to people who didn't live in the US. The stakes for those people were huge. If they learned English and were in the service industry, this allowed them to work at a hotel, which increased their salary overnight by 40%. The founder of Duolingo said early on he considered teaching other skills: math, science, coding, and so on. But there wasn't a single, bigger, guaranteed step up for customers than learning English. They launched with language. What are your stakes? The final piece of the document might be picking one person you'd interviewed who best represented the problem at the top of the page.


The question might be about the stakes of the problem is an important, urgent, painful, growing, expensive. With a customer, overpay for a solution. Do you speak the problem language? The great thing about SOPs is that the first iteration is going to stink, and that's fine. That's the point. You've got to be bad before you're good. But it helps create momentum and movement. Startups are like sharks, and this type of reflective task creation is incredibly useful and easy to get feedback on. If you send me an SOP, I can easily give you feedback on it. If you want the SOP I just described briefly, fire and email the team at gettacklebox. Com. I'll probably clean it up a bit and probably put it on our beehive too. Gettacklebox. Beehiv. Com. Reflection, building the SOP. Repetition, executing on it. Back to our friend. We talked through this process in SOPs, and he went off and built one for his problem search. Right away, he reached back out. I spoke with 10 people, he said, and the hypothesis I had on my SOP to start makes absolutely zero sense. I went in, assuming they'd want to help their kids learn math, but basically, anyone I spoke with only cared about one of two things.


First, interacting with other kids, and second, getting into college. You'd think the college question would skew towards older homeschool kids, but it actually didn't. It seemed like parents that homeschooled their kids for logistical reasons were really worried about college. If they kept homeschooling them, what would that mean? The other side were parents of younger kids trying to get them socialized, finding teams for them to play on mostly. These are two wildly different and both interesting avenues, and neither was the stated reason on my SOP. So what do I do? Well, there we go. We're thrashing around and finding stuff. This is entrepreneurship. Step one is to reframe the problem and pop it into a new SOP. Step two is to go after the new problem. Or both of them, if you'd like, if you got the bandwidth. The key was to reflect and adjust, which brings us to our final pro tactic, the startup journal. I've mentioned this before on the pod maybe a year or so ago. I've probably had more people reach out about it than anything else. The startup journal is exactly what it sounds like, a journal where you write about your startup.


But you should position it as if it were an informal letter to someone. It could be to your future self, to an advisor, to really anyone you want. The point is to write out your decisions and the thinking behind them in real time, how they made you feel, things you got done and things you didn't, why you didn't send the 25 emails your SOP told you to send yesterday. People think procrastination is a work management problem, but it's almost always an emotional one. The startup journal will shake it all loose. One of my favorite books is called Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck. He wrote it while he was writing East of Eden. It was a daily letter to his editor, composed after his main writing session that he never sent. It discussed why he made certain decisions with the core book, what made him nervous. He'd scold himself in it for not taking more risks, then praise himself the next day when he did. The running journal of a hard thing is an extraordinary tool, and you should do it. Reflection, repetition, tell your five-year story, and connect it back to your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.


And if you're curious, the best ever run after someone in the airport scene that Ruby recreated running back to the tree she couldn't move is definitely from Love Actually, when the kid sprints through the airport to say goodbye to the preposterously talented girl he has a crush on. What a movie, what a scene, what a way to end the pod. This was the idea to start a podcast, we'll get back to you by Tacklebox. If you have a startup idea and a full-time job, head to gettacklebox. Com and apply. We'll get back to you in 72 hours and we'll be working on your idea by the weekend. Have a great week.