Knowing When Something is Worth Pursuing

Today, I was presented with a strange opportunity that I normally would have dismissed out of hand, but as I read the email, I found the wheels turning thinking about how I could make it happen.

I won’t get too far into the details, but the opportunity allows us to use a number of our diverse resources across our online businesses to create a new part to our business.  It’s also something reasonably interesting to me personally, so like everything, that’s important to me.

It’s probably important at this point to share that I’m not committed to actually undertaking this new venture on.  I need to sit down with my wife over breakfast on the weekend, get her take on it and see if it is something she thinks is worthwhile and wants to participate in.

But I thought it might be a good chance to share how I think about and evaluate situations like this.  Ideally, it will give you the basis of a decision making framework that you can customize and apply to what you’re doing if you see a chance to take advantage of it.

Ok, so here goes…

Pretty much everything that I do now has to run through my “does this sound like something fun” filter.  Without sounding like too much a self-indulgent assclown, this is something that at this point in my life and business that I’ve earned for myself.

Put simply, if something doesn’t pique my curiosity, challenge me intellectually, sound like a lot of fun or, in fact, touch on more than one of those things, then I dismiss it out of hand.

This isn’t for everyone – I’m fond of saying, “it’s not called ‘work’ because it’s easy”, but by the same token, I’ve got enough on the go and runs on the board that this is a luxury that I can afford myself.  If you’re just starting out or you’re not in a great financial situation, then this might not work for you.

Word of caution though, if something is pure drudgery, you will not give it your all unless you’re are seriously desperate.  Personally, I refuse to make business decisions from a place of desperation, so don’t end up there.

The next obvious set of criteria are pretty straightforward, “Is this a good idea?  Will it work?  Can I do it?  Does this have the opportunity to be financially successful in a meaningful way?”

There’s a lot of criteria there so let’s unpack them.

The key objective with this is to work out as much as is possible, if your idea is a good one.  The requires a level of brutal honesty – if you lie to yourself or are blinded by cock-eyed optimism you’re not just going to fail, you’re probably going to set yourself on fire and then fail.

The obvious starting point for a business is the financial hurdle.

I’m going to share my gauge and you can use that to calibrate your own.

I think of things in terms of, “Would it be possible for this to be a six-figure business within two years and how many customers/sales would I have to make to deliver that outcome?”

If something doesn’t have the realistic opportunity to be a six-figure business in 24 months, then for me, it’s not worth effort.  That might be a totally different metric for you – you might be happy with $1000/mth.

Whatever that number is, ask yourself how many sales a month do you need to make that happen.

Then think about whether you can even deliver the product or service – this speaks to the “will it work” and “can I do it” portions.  If you can’t deliver or the process to getting to deliver is too onerous, then you’re going to fail.  Again, we’re not shunning hard work, we’re just being realistic – you don’t start your journey to Olympic Gold in the marathon by going to a lazy 28-mile run on a Sunday morning.

And in their totality, thinking about and challenging yourself with this set of questions helps form in your mind whether or not the idea is good.  If you think you’ll enjoy something, it financially stacks up and you can execute the idea at a high level, then that’s the genesis of a good idea.

The last thing I think about personally is leverage.

With the opportunity that I spoke about earlier, the effort and talent that it requires to be executed successfully are all capabilities that we have today within our existing online businesses.

I hate using the word, but there are synergies for us.  We can leverage existing resources and assets towards executing this opportunity in a fairly simple way.

If you don’t have a lot of resources or assets to deploy, then it becomes about finding synergies with your own talents and skill sets.  Can the idea that you’re thinking of working on leverage things that you’re already good at and have the spare capacity to engage on this initiative?  That’s a good way of looking at the problem of leverage for someone just starting out.

So, harkening back to the opportunity that presented itself to me, considering that I answered in the affirmative to all of those questions as to whether I should take this opportunity up or not, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to start on it.

Here’s the bonus lesson – time, energy and focus.

Starting something new is going to distract you – it will take up time that could be spent on something else, it will suck energy out of you and your focus on what you’re currently doing will be diminished.

Why am I so sure of that?

Elementary, my dear Watson.   If you had an abundance of time, energy and focus, wouldn’t you be expending it on something you’re already doing?  If you have a surplus of these things, then you’re really not leaning into the things you’re already doing and therefore you’re probably not succeeding.  And that being the case, you’d probably fail at this too.

The reality is, you have to accept that you’re going to be able to spend less time, energy and focus on what you’re currently doing if you start something new.  You have to weigh up the risks of that, think about mitigation strategies and then assess whether it’s worth it.

But if you think you’ll just take something else on without sacrificing anything in the process, then you’re not thinking clearly or you’re not very experienced and I advise caution.

So that’s my thought process at the moment with this new opportunity and how I evaluate things.  As I said, I’ll run the whole thing past my wife and see which way her eyes move over breakfast.  If she thinks it’s worth pursuing then I’ll figure out whether the time, energy and focus it requires is viable for me personally and financially.

That’s probably something that’s also worth noting – have a foil.  In my case, I have my wife to bounce ideas off of and that really helps.  She knows my strengths and weaknesses so if I’m overreaching or not doing my impact assessments correctly, she has some skin in the game and can call it out for me – don’t underestimate the value of external perspective.

Anyway, I hope that help and when I make up my mind about this new opportunity, I’ll let you know where I landed and why.

Leave a Comment