Where Do You Start?

I just finished two client engagements, and both of them had the same question, albeit from different perspectives: “Where do I start?”

In the first situation, my client is with a company that has just had a horrific year. They endured a scandal involving their product, poor sales results, and a complete management overhaul. She is trying to simultaneously build a new brand and renew trust in a marketplace that is short on it. Where does she start?

In the second situation, my client is the new marketing leader of one of the most innovative and coolest startups that I’ve heard of in some time. Their dynamic CEO has a vision to disrupt one of the most dated industries on the planet. He wants to do everything now. Of course, they don’t have the resources to do everything now. The pressure is on. Where does he start?

Interestingly, despite their diametrically opposed positions, they are in exactly the same place. They are anxious and overwhelmed about what the future holds. Where do they start?

We’ve all been there. I’ve found a few things that can help.

 

  1. Feel what you feel.
    One of the best places to start is to allow yourself to feel. Explore the emotions. List out all the things that scare you or that could go wrong ­– or that could go right or even make you feel joyous. Feel them all. Feelings have less power over you when you look right at them.
  2. Map out what success looks like.
    Take the time to map out what success – true joyous success – looks like. Ask yourself, “What would need to be true for that success to be realized?” Write it all out. You might be surprised how settling it can be. (If you don’t see a successful outcome as possible, stop here. There’s no point in starting anything.)
  3. Discover your priorities.
    Look at your list of what needs to be true, and when, and ask yourself, “What are all the things that might get in the way of those things being true?” List those things. Then ask yourself, “Of all these things, which are the big ones that need to be settled first?” You’ve just discovered some of your first priorities.

 

  1. Focus on what you can control.
    For my colleague who was dealing with the product scandal, one of her primary concerns was “What if we can’t deliver the new product?” This is something beyond her control. “All your plans,” I pointed out to her, “must assume that the product team can fulfill on their promise. If they can’t, then no amount of amazing content will work. But if you are assuming they can’t, then it makes no sense to begin at all.”

Okay, let’s say you’ve done all this. You’ve given yourself a chance to feel what you feel. You’ve mapped out what success looks like. You’ve discovered your priorities. And you’re focused on what you can control – including your own commitment to the worthiness of starting at all. You may find that you’re now ready to start in the only place it’s possible to start: at the beginning.