These are some of the tools we have found helpful whilst developing and running the Parent-Cubator sessions. We’d love your feedback, and suggestions for other resources that have helped you. This is collective intelligence from our network, not formal business advice!
We love the Lean Canvas – It is a great alternative to traditional business planning, using a more flexible ‘agile’ model to think about how you will solve customer problems and add value. One of its central ideas is that in order to get noticed at all as a start up you have to be solving a problem that your customers are already searching (and paying) for a solution to. This video by it’s creator Ash Maurya takes you through a simple 20 minute exercise to complete a first version of the canvas, thinking about your customers, their problems and your value proposition.
On our Parent-Cubator course you will collaborate with other entrepreneurial parents to create, adapt and stress test your lean canvas, so that you can ‘fail fast, succeed faster’ and not waste time and money on solutions that won’t attract enough customers.
This is an excellent way to lift your head above the parapet and visualise what you want to be, have and do in the future.
Grab a pile of magazines, a piece of card (A3 or A4 size), some scissors and glue and flick through finding images which appeal to you. Don’t over think, just cut lots out and put them in a big pile. Then go back and prune a little, which ones represent your biggest priorities, in terms of what you want and how you want to feel?
Create your board, and place it somewhere you can see it every day. You’ll notice how many of your goals you reach over time, and how positive it makes you feel to spend a few moments looking at it each day. Your kids might enjoy making their own boards too
Pinterest is available too of course, if you prefer to do it on line!
The Wheel of Life
There are so many competing priorities as a parent, and often areas of our lives which feel like a struggle. I did this exercise with a small group of mums, guided by the amazing Roxanne Hobbs, and found it transformational. It helped me pinpoint the areas I felt least satisfied with, and come up with practical, achievable ways to move my scores up…in a few weeks, my wheel was a lot less wobbly!
Are you a hedgehog or a fox? In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ argues that companies (including those with a social mission) that do best are hedgehogs: they have a piercing clarity about what they are deeply passionate about, what they are best in the world at delivering and the resources that drive their engine (what their customers and stakeholders pay for and support). Where those three areas intersect is where you have the greatest chance of success. If you’re starting out it’s a good idea to think about how others see as your key strengths.
Starting a business can be exciting, but also challenging, demanding and exhausting. If you throw parenthood into the mix, you can really feel as if you’re spinning lots of plates whilst hoping they will not come crashing down. Your business will benefit if you are happy, healthy and productive, so looking after yourself should be part of your business plan.
Read Yvette Hoskings-James’ 5 simple steps to take, and create your own self care plan
This is such a critical job to do when you are a start up, and so many of us don’t do it or don’t listen to the answers we get, because we’re too wedded to the solution we’ve already dreamt up. To really understand what your customers want, start by asking 10-15 people who you think might be your ‘early adopters’ (first customers and champions) the following 3 questions:
Do you have [the problem I am trying to solve]? If they don’t, they are not your customer!
Tell me about the last time you had [the problem]? Get lots of details from them about how they tried to solve the problem, how much they paid, what was good or bad about the solutions they tried? If they didn’t try to solve the problem, they are not your customer; if they didn’t pay money to try to solve it they probably aren’t your customer either
What would your ideal solution look like? Does what they describe sound like you’re what you are proposing? If not, can you ‘pivot’ your model? Would you still feel passionate about delivering that solution?
The golden rule is not to ask people who already know your start up idea in detail. People will nearly always be polite about the idea, even if they would never hand over money for it in reality. Their past behaviour is a much better predictor of what they will do in the future.
After your first round of interviews is it time to think again about the problem you’re trying to solve? or who you are trying to solve it for? Does your solution need to change to reflect their ideal solutions?
Once you’ve made any changes to the problem and customer segment you want to target, go through the same exercise again. Face to face is usually invaluable to start with. The exercise has created so many ‘lightbulb’ moments at the Parent-Cubator. Investing time going through this cycle a few times, saves so much time in solutions that don’t get any traction.
Once you have identified the customers whose ideal solutions fit well with the solution / proposition you are working on, you need to create 2-3 detailed personas so that you can really understand more about these potential ‘early adopters’
We really like using empathy mapping as a tool for building up these profiles. Draw your customer in the middle of a piece of flip chart paper, give him or her a name, an age, an ethnicity, a role or job, a family if they have one. Then start to imagine a typical day. What ‘jobs’ does she/he have to do, in the widest sense e.g. to earn income, feel good about herself, entertain herself, help others, for their physical environment? With that in mind try to fill in this template
A value proposition template is an excellent way to test out whether you have a clear, concise and compelling statement about how your product or service will help your ideal customer get the ‘job’ done. Use the information you have gained from customer discovery interviews and your empathy mapping exercise to try out a few versions of these statements, and ask your early adopters for their feedback.