Plan, Execute, Pivot, Repeat

In anticipation of Quest 3.0, I thought it might be helpful for some founders to read more about the grind of how we got here.

pivotIn late 2013/early 2014, I had an idea for a new business . . . it was going to be the most awesome thing ever! We’d be an instant hit, investors would be fighting to help us reach our goals, and we’d live happily ever after, or something like that. Things were going great until life got in the way, so to speak.

Quest was founded to connect clients and athletes with experts via online videoconferencing to help them achieve their goals. I still believe 100% in that vision and I’m certain we’ll see more and more of this sooner versus later. However, it didn’t work out that way and we had to adapt.

Roger and I set Quest’s expectations and developed our plan for about nine months (including time as part of the awesome Straight Shot accelerator). We executed our vision, then . . . nothing. Not even close to the traction we expected.

  • “If you build it, they will come.” OK, so I know that never really happens, but I kinda hoped it would. I mean, our vision was cool, our experience was more than solid, we were working with an e-commerce innovator, and had the support of some prominent business leaders. But that didn’t happen. At all.
  • The response from Providers was overwhelmingly positive. Every provider we contacted was supportive and believed in our approach; I actually had to stop our recruiting efforts as we could have had hundreds if we kept with it. That confirmation provided an implicit confirmation that our vision was good.
  • Perhaps we were too focused on getting investors; much of Straight Shot is rightly about attracting attention to both increase traction and to garner investment to allow further, more accelerated growth. This is not a bad approach at all–in fact it’s quite awesome–but we may have started Straight Shot too soon; in retrospect, it seems that some traction, even minuscule, beforehand is essential to both gain the attention of investors and to take advantage of all David, Mark, Erica, Scott, and the rest of their crew have to offer. Much of our time, while far from wasted, was spent on pitching investors and not building our company. Granted, both can be done simultaneously, but we should have focused more time on the latter versus the former; it was my responsibility to determine that sooner than I did.
  • So it was time to cry and sulk or it was time to  . . . pivot.

We re-set our expectations and tweaked our plan. What if, instead of targeting individual clients, we contacted–and then partnered with–groups, races, and companies? We executed on this plan as well. We connected with several races and were named official training partners for their events. We contacted and worked with several weight loss centers and contacted and worked with several companies. Not even close to the traction we expected.

  • The races and events we partnered with didn’t provide us with the leads we wanted. That falls on my shoulders, I likely did not push this as hard or aggressively as I should. Same goes for weight loss centers.
  • I mentioned life getting in the way . . . funny how that happens. I have a (very) supportive wife and five children I thoroughly enjoy spending time with, I have a full-time job, and I have a mortgage to pay. Though I worked a minimum of 20 hours a week on Quest (usually 30-40), I had other people and things that deserved my time and energy as well.
  • So it was time to cry and sulk or it was time to  . . . pivot.

We re-set our expectations and tweaked our plan. So we executed as such:

  • We decreased the number of providers from 15 to three and decreased the overall number of services from nine to three. This seems to be a more palatable thing for customers to consider; I seem to recall Paul Jarrett of Bulu Box learning early on that their customers did not respond well when provided several options from which to choose. Perhaps the same is true with Quest as well.
  • We also needed more visitors to the site. Our SEO efforts have SLOWLY been paying off, but we needed something more. So we opened an online store that offers products that relate to our offered services. The hope is that we can both increase our revenue AND attract customers to our site who are more likely to work with one of our coaches or trainers.
  • Bootstrapping . . . that’s our investment strategy for now. That might change in the future, but we need to be comfortable with this approach.
  • There are one or two other tweaks in the works as well.
  • So, will it be time to pivot again soon?

What have I learned through all this?

  • Roger and I are quite good at what we do; one of our Straight Shot cohorts suggested that if we just tell people about us, we’ll be super successful. Did we begin to believe this too? It takes much more than that . . .
  • Given our teaching and writing backgrounds, Roger and I tend to think more like academicians and researchers when explaining and not enough like marketers.
  • My strength is in the overall vision and the design and adaptation(s) of training plans and I still struggle with marketing, but I continue to read, learn, and try new paths.
  • Perhaps I expected the immediate success my first company had; I exceeded every goal I (and others) set for it.
  • But I also learned to pivot. When a roadblock or hurdle is placed in our way (whether by us or others or simply life), figure out a way around. Life will NEVER go as we hope or expect . . . the best we can do (and it’s a lesson I continue to impart to my children) is to pivot and keep moving forward.

Thank you

Lastly, thank you to the following for overtly or subtly, knowingly or not, helping and inspiring Quest and other entrepreneurs, it means a lot to us (and others as well).