“There’s a scalable business in here somewhere,” we told ourselves.
For four years we have offered the synchronization service for no charge, predicated on the hypothesis that a business model would emerge to support the free service.
— from the Xmarks Blog
I use Xmarks, or at least I did. The service, a bookmark syncing app for various browsers was one of the first plugins I installed when I began using Google Chrome. I like it, as I use Chrome for my work browsing and research (which I switched to after abandoning Safari, and it’s a whole other headache), and I often need access to various links and ref sites no matter where I’m working. Chrome (and other browsers) have since added their own native syncing, the main reason Xmarks is shutting down, but please re-read the quotes above again.
Were they kidding? When you start a business – and I’m not talking about something you make and offer up free on your personal blog, like a template or script – you must have an endgame. You must plan to monetize, or at the very least figure out how to exist in perpetuity without money coming in. You cannot – I repeat, cannot – sit around think that one day you’ll find a business model that works, or the cash will just come in.
There’s some serious wisdom to what Jack Canfield calls the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach in The Success Principles, but that’s more about overcoming anxiety that would keep you from ever trying or completing something than it is a business plan. I can’t believe these guys, who built a good product, had no idea what they were doing from a monetizing standpoint. They staffed up like a real company and recruited a CEO. How did no one along the line say, “We need to nip this ‘no plan’ in the bud and start treating this like a business.” In the blog they say transitioned “from pet project to startup,” but it doesn’t sound like they understood what that meant.
So why am I talking about business and random technology here? I think there’s a lesson to be learned. Planning is everything. It’s the reason I haven’t been able to blog daily. It’s the reason most companies and individuals fail. Planning, knowing what you’re going to do and testing that out before you put anything in motion, is the reason people succeed. Occasionally people fall into success, but rarely does it happen without a plan at some point, or at least a goal in mind.
Know what you want and where you want to be. Create a plan for how to get there. Execute.
And remember that the map is not the territory. You’ll need to adjust, but keep that ending in mind.