When I decided I wanted to get involved in the start up community, I realized I would need something that defines me as a person and as a brand. Believe it or not, we are all brands. Like it or not, your name will evoke an emotional response. That response is your brand. Below is my philosophy and ultimately my brand.

Why S.A.F.E.? What does that mean?

These steps build one upon the other. You must thoroughly study or you will aim at the wrong target. If you aim at the wrong target, you won't hit the bulls-eye you seek. If you don't hit the right target, all the evaluation in the world won't fix your problem. If you can't properly evaluate your process and results, you just don't belong in business.

S.A.F.E. is an acronym. You can see it in the title of my site. Keep reading for better explanations of each letter. We'll do this Sesame Street style.

 

S is for Study

The term study can be a verb or a noun. In either context, it involves the acquisition of knowledge and understanding. You must first decide what you want to know. I can't make you want anything. No one can. You get to make that choice. Once the choice is made, the course is VERY clear. Becoming an expert at anything requires diligent study of ALL related material and sometimes seemingly unrelated material. In the end, however, you will find that everything can be related to everything else.

Study your competition. Study their successes and failures. Study your own skills, strengths, gaps, needs, and wants. Study it all. Ask too many questions of yourself and those around you.

 

A is for Aim

If you have ever read any of my LinkedIn posts, you will find the reoccurring theme of market segment focus. When I work on consulting projects, one of the first questions I ask a client is about their target market. Their answer gives me a wealth of clues both implicit and explicit. I can figure out from that one answer how well they know their product and customers.

The same goes for you. If you want your start-up to have any chance of survival, you must know whom are serving and whom you are not. The best ideas started as simple and focused products. Facebook, for example, started as a way for Harvard students to interact. That's it. Now it rules the world because Mark Zuckerberg is a ruthless guy and knew where to aim.

Have a goal. Have an idea of where you want to go. The path may be a bit rocky and bumpy. You may think you are lost at times. Stay focused of your target.

 

F is for Fire

At some point, you have to JUST FREAKIN' DO IT!

I see so many people get stuck in the first two steps. I have had to kick myself out of them as well. This site is a great example. You can read all the great books. Listen to all the marketing and tech gurus for wonderful insights. At some point, you must execute. I love Gary Vaynerchuk for this reason alone. Get off your butt and execute.

What holds you back is what holds everyone back: FEAR. Fear of not being enough of something. Smart enough, strong enough, technical enough, or. . .whatever. I remind myself of two things all the time:

  1. I never want to deal with the feeling of "What if I had just. . ."
  2. I want my kids to be proud to say "That's my Dad"

One of the best conversation starters of all time is "Hey, remember that time when we . . . ."

 

E is for Evaluate

I have a friend who is a Marine, was an Army reservist, and now works at the VA in Walla Walla, WA. We have been umpires together for many years. We developed training programs, given presentations, and taught many people to be better officials. 

After any group effort, we always sit down for an AAR as he calls it: After Action Report. It comes down to 5 good questions we ask each other and answer as candidly as possible.

  1. Did we plan properly?
  2. Did we execute the plan properly?
  3. Did we achieve the desired results?
  4. What factors contributed to our results?
  5. What do we need to do to improve going forward to achieve the desired results?

You can add anything you'd like to the above. The concept is clear. After you do your diligence, find the right target, and press the button on the plan, HONESTLY ask yourself if you got what you wanted. If not, make the changes. If you did, keep going and don't be afraid to adjust. 

This is a never-ending cycle for those who truly wish to be successful. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.