Simple first steps to building that next HUGE idea you have…

February 7, 2019

Sometimes just the first few steps of building a plan that’s the hardest. This is actually my favorite place to live and my favorite part of the process of building anything. The truly creative stage of turning nothing into something.

I hope I’m going to help you fix that.

A few assumptions…

We’re going to assume you already know what business you want to be in.

We’re also going to assume you’ve done a lot of research and you have a ton of great ideas rolling around in your head. You’re excited to get started on a new venture or division in your company but you’re not sure how to easily take the first step.

We’re also going to assume you’re not one of those “big idea” startups but rather you have a very clear path to profitability You know how you’re going to make money. I know this sounds crazy but there’s actually companies that just say they’re going to get users and they’ll figure out how to make money later.

Businesses are systems and processes and systems have

  • Steps defined
  • Measurements

You may be saying they’re people, ideas and all that jazz. And yes they are but they’re all based on the systems (steps and measurements).

…Planning and MVP (minimum viable product) systems always come before people hiring. If you hire people into a company without the proper systems you’re always going to have an uphill battle. They don’t have to be the best systems but there has to be some systems there that they can understand, get their jobs done with and ultimately, hopefully, improve on.

The Goal

Get to something that makes revenue as soon as possible with as minimal of systems and overhead as possible without creating massive chaos.

Build a system once and it’s built forever. You can always iterate and improve on it but at least you have something written down.

Move tribal knowledge to documented knowledge to save yourself time and energy. Nothing worse than repeating yourself 50 times a day because you hold the keys to the process in your head.

The Start of the Process

Your first and most important steps is going to pave the way for the second, third and so on steps.

Because of this I always recommend people start at the most macro level for the venture. And more specifically to the point we’re building a business to solve a customer’s problem. That’s the only reason for a business to exist.

I always start with the customer journey for my macro steps.

* Psst here’s a secret… this same system will work for building any system or process which ultimately that’s what a business is.

Ok back to the matter at hand.

Our basic high level steps for turning your HUGE idea into a easily follow able road map. Where when you have those great ideas, while you’re in the shower, they have homes much like your socks go in your sock drawer. Once you develop this framework you won’t have to wind up with a bunch of scattered great ideas. You can write them down put them where they belong and know they’re next on your road map or the you’ll work on them when you get to that stage and the resources are available.

Break it down, Break it down Break it down

People think I’m some kind of mad scientist because I have the ability to crank out stuff when I get in the zone. It’s actually no amazing talent or great skill. It just takes the simple process of

Chunking it down

Chunking it down

Chunking it down

No specific process should take you more than 15 mins to 1 hour to write. If it does it’s too complicated. Chunk it down more and break it into multiple processes or steps.

The whole premise of this post and process is about “chunking it down” which means breaking it into chunks. Then breaking that into chunks.

The Process

Step 1

We’re going to get super macro. Meaning think of this business in 10 years and what high level systems would need to be in place to support the customer journey with you?

Then we’re going to write down 5-10 macro concepts as part of the customer journey. Inevitably what are the 5-10 steps this business needs to create a great customer experience and scale to 10x what you can imagine it today.

By the way can it scale to 10x? This is a great question to ask yourself at this point. Because if it can’t is it the right business to get in?

As an example, for a list in an affiliate network it might be

  1. Marketing Machine
  2. How do we generate Merchants?
  3. How do we generate affiliate clients?
  4. How do we on board a new merchant in the system?
  5. How do we on board a new affiliate in the system?
  6. How do we help an affiliate pick something to run?
  7. How do we help them when it doesn’t work?
  8. How do we make sure that the affiliate is sending quality traffic to the merchant?
  9. How do we collect money from the merchant?
  10. How do we make sure the affiliate is paid on time?

That’s it these are our basic top level areas see only 5 for a whole affiliate network. 99% of what we do running an affiliate network fits in those buckets. This is basically what everyone else thinks the business is. We a lot of times get stuck in the weeds and go deep we then lose sight of this macro view. It’s important to come back to this regularly.

Step 2

Pick the steps required for the MVP (minimum viable product) this means essentially what could you start this venture or new division with? Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do the other ones in the start.

As an example, do you need a marketing machine to start a network? You may think the answer is yes… but you could actually start a network with 1 merchant and one advertiser. You probably don’t even need to have a great onboarding experience for them. When I started A4D we didn’t even do paperwork, credit checks or anything. We just set them up.

In our example the only core things you’d need to start turning some revenue are???

  1. We have to have a place to onboard them to
  2. We have to have a place to on board them to
  3. Need to get paid cause otherwise we might not be able to pay
  4. Have to keep the affiliate (customer) happy to keep running traffic

Step 3

Build a road map for the rest of the steps

Phase 1

  1. How do we on board a new merchant in the system
  2. How do we on board a new affiliate in the system?
  3. How do we collect money from the merchant?
  4. How do we make sure the affiliate is paid on time?

Phase 2

  1. How do we help an affiliate pick something to run?
  2. How do we help them when it doesn’t work?

Phase 3

  1. Marketing Machine
  2. How do we make sure that the affiliate is sending quality traffic to the merchant?

Our goal after the first pass of phase 1 is that we can actually start making some revenue in the company.

Step 4

Last step to get going is take each of the phases and build out the minimum viable systems needed to build to get this going.

Now a lot of stuff is going to be rushing into our brain at this point.

“Well I need this and that and what about this. And wouldn’t it be cool if we had…”.

This is great write it all down, just brain dump it under that section. Now it’s like your socks in your sock drawer. It’ll never get lost and when you’re ready you can go grab it and work on it.

We’re going to use number 2 as an example for some brain dump ideas

  1. How do we on board a new merchant in the system
  • We need an IO
  • We need a contract
  • We need a sign-up form
  • We need a account manager to manage them
  • That account manager need a process to follow
  • And the list goes on there could literally be 100’s of things or even thousands mine are sometimes… BUT all this is great… none of it is required to start making money
  • Machine learning to automate fraud detection of user on sign-up
  • User centric email series to help them get started
  • Videos welcoming them and letting them know what we’re all about and how we’re different…
  • Process to train employees how to set a merchant up

Then once that all out. We’re going to get a to a better approach. What’s the minimum I have to do to get this working and start making money?

  • Select and setup a Tracking platform
  • Get affiliate payment information
  • Setup payment with payment provider

Now what’s cool about this is you always have this place to dump your great ideas. I actually keep this whole thing on Google Keep on my phone so even if I’m flying I can grab my phone and add a few bullet points of things that need to be built.

That’s it. Rinse repeat.

Iterative process

Each quarter do a plan of what’s going to get built as a goal. Do a breakdown of what

One other trick I use is as I’m learning how to do whatever that thing is or going through that process for the first time I like to ask myself “is someone else going to need to do this at some point?” If the answer is no for example signing up with an affiliate network I don’t write a little doc for that. If someone is going to need to do it, say setup a merchant I do like to write a doc or shoot a quick video. I then add them to our knowledge base system.

To do this I like

Tettra is simple and integrates with slack. You make some folders, create a template for your SOP’s (standard operation procedures) and then make a new doc.

  1. To create the content, I’d suggest like to use Screencastify to record myself going through the steps to do that job. Way easier than writing a huge process out.
  2. After it’s done I trim it in Screencastify.
  3. Then I title it & push it to a Youtube channel as an unlisted video so no one can search and find it. Hit copy Youtube link from Screencastify.
  4. Go over to and create a new page in the proper folder.
  5. Select the template you created for SOP’s
  6. Put a title people would search or understand
  7. Hit embed, then add your Youtube video link there.
  8. In addition, I’ll often make an outline of steps but not typically much more detail than that. If they need detail they can go watch the video.

Going to write a more robust post on using these tools plus Slack. Makes this quick and easy.

Thanks for sticking with me. I have some more posts lined up. I’ve been building a Technology Platform and launching our own Product Brands the last 3 years. Because of that I haven’t had much time for writing publicly, been writing and improving a lot of systems and processes for the team.

But… I’ve learned a lot of great stuff and I’ll work on writing about it then of course sharing it with you.

Stay tuned… (just don’t hold your breath, you might die)

Stay Humble,



Want More? The more people listening the more I’ll write.
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