I believe that everyone has a super power. Mine is selling beverages. Over the last 20 years in the beverage industry, I have held every position from box cutter and shelf stocker to corporate executive and new category entrepreneur.
Across these phases in my professional evolution, a few things have consistently stood out to me as I’ve watched new products and ideas come to life – or die trying.
The biggest takeaway I’ve gleaned from my own experiences is that if people knew all of what was involved in bringing a product to life, they would never have quit their day jobs.
The great part is that most people have no idea, and so they take that leap of faith and dive headfirst into making their dream a reality. That’s what I did in the beverage industry and I’ve never turned back.
Five Stages in Growing an Idea from Napkin Doodle to Scale
One thing I’ve seen again and again is that there is a clear path to building a successful product, and it breaks down into five distinct stages.
This stage won’t cost you a penny, but it will require time, brainpower and long nights burning the midnight oil. The greatest advice I can give to anyone in this early phase is to spend as much time as possible researching, forecasting and wrestling with hard questions. This is where you start asking yourself: What is it I want to create?
How do I want to go about it? What is my business model? What will my costs be? What vendors and partners will I need along the way to help me get there? Who in my network can help me? The list goes on. By devoting the time upfront to fully vet your business plan in Ideation, you will save big bucks down the line.
Here’s where the dollars come into play. By the time you enter this phase, you have created your product, done your first commercial production run, and are now trying to sell it. It is in this stage that you start experimenting with your messaging, packaging and who your core customer truly is.
You’ve taken that first step getting your product into market, and are now looking for ways to get that “second date,” securing repeat orders. The big audacious goal here is to go from $0 to $5 million in revenue, which is by far the hardest leap to make.
- Validation. If you’ve hit this stage, you’re one of only a handful who make it out of the trial phase and are doing low eight figures in top line revenue. You’ve completed experimenting, you’ve got a lot of hard lessons learned under your belt, and you’ve pivoted your strategy as many times as it was required to be successful. You are “all in” and on a trajectory for continued growth.
- Transformation. At this point, you’ve got your product down pat, the sales are streaming in, and you are trucking along doing significant middle eight-figure revenue. It’s time to start adding more people to the mix to support your growing business – though this does not come without its own unique set of challenges.
Suddenly, you are trying to get people and departments that didn’t exist three months ago to communicate and work seamlessly as a team. Creating structure and building a strong culture are overnight necessities. New demands are coming from all aspects of the business, but at the end of the day, success is in the hands of your employees, so it’s important to hire wisely and have open lines of communication. Look for people who are aligned with the mission of your brand and augment your strengths, while mitigating your weaknesses.
- Accelerated Growth. You’ve made it to the big leagues. By the time you hit this final stage you are starting to realistically consider nine-figure revenue plans. You are looking for strong national and international distribution partners. This is where the big exits usually occur with a strategic or multinational partner.
No matter what stage of development you find yourself, the most important thing to remember is to remain “all in” regardless of what comes your way. No one captures this truth better than Mike Tyson, who famously said, “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” So, take your punches, bob-and-weave with the business, and get up and keep on fighting. Success is yours for the taking.