As With Jack has been live for 6+ months, this is a question I’ve been exploring.
Whenever people ask, “How’s Jack going?”, I’m never sure what to respond with. Do I tell them how many customers I have? Focus on the conversion rate? Or do I be upfront and say “It’s going well, but it’s still not supporting me yet”?
Depending on who’s asking I’ll say a mixture of those things. “It’s going well. We have 73 customers and are growing every week, but it’s hit a plateau. We have a conversion rate of 25%, but it’s volume we’re lacking.”
To some this sounds like a promising start. To others, they seem sympathetic to my startup woes. This is because validation looks different to everyone.
To me, With Jack has been validated.
Here’s how I personally measure validation:
- Creatively satisfied. I crawl into bed at the end of the day feeling challenged and creatively satisfied. Insurance isn't known for being a creative industry, but I bring those elements into my job. Making visuals, writing content, coding etc.
- No Sunday dread. I'm not on Facebook anymore, but I'd log in on Sunday evenings to be met with a wall full of 'Sunday dread'. These are the people who aren't looking forward to work on Monday. There are 52 (or 53) Sundays in the year—that's a lot of dread!
- Comparing it to my previous attempt. With Insurance by Jack, I won 55 customers in 2 years. Compare this to 73 customers in 6 months and With Jack is looking encouraging. It supports what I was saying all along. A better customer journey will delight visitors and improve the conversion rate.
- Customer feedback. Emails, tweets. Every time someone vouches for With Jack, I feel a sense of validation. With Jack's goal is to make business insurance accessible to freelancers and those working in the digital sector. Statements like this affirm I'm closer to fulfilling that goal.
- Making money. With Jack has been making money from day one, although it still isn't enough to support me. Every week we're putting new customers on cover and inching towards a sustainable business.
But maybe I wouldn’t think Jack has been validated if I had 3 kids to feed.
Maybe I wouldn’t think Jack has been validated if I’d left a job with a £60K salary to pursue it.
I’m fortunate that I’m building Jack with a financial cushion from other projects. This is why it’s impossible to have a blanket response to “What does validation look like?”. Everybody’s circumstances / goals are different, therefore validation looks different to everyone.
Playing The Long Game
Another factor I consider is time. It took my dad 2 years to start earning a decent income with his insurance business. (In case you haven’t noticed, my dad is a big inspiration to me. That’s who I named my business after.)
Year 2 is magical for brokers. On top of the new business they’re bringing in, they’re enjoying renewals from year 1. That book of customers begins to build.
Despite an insight into how my dad built his business, my mind wrestles with the articles I read on marketing and business in the startup world. You know the type. The ones with the clickbait titles?
“How My Website Made £17,000 With This One Simple Tweak”
“Idea To £25,000 In One Weekend”
“How We Got 100,000 Users In 24 Hours”
While they’re fun to read and (maybe) spark ideas to apply to your own business, they’re unrealistic. They make business sound easy. The overnight success story. My worry is people read these articles thinking that’s how business should look.
Nobody writes about “How It Took Me 500 Days Of Showing Up And Making Lots Of Mistakes To Earn Enough Money To Pay My Bills”. That’s partly why I blog about where I’m going wrong, because that part is just as important as when you get it right.
Side note: A business blog I enjoy reading that’s refreshingly honest is Adii Pienaar’s.
In 2015 I changed a lot about the way I do business. I used to follow my creative itch, starting a new project whenever inspiration hit. I’d then move onto the next thing when I got bored or lost steam.
That’s not me anymore. I’ve learned to focus. I give one project my attention, I experiment with it and I’m patient. I don’t expect overnight results.
To answer the question, “What does validation look like?”. You can decide based on your circumstances and goals. Ignore the clickbait headlines, how others measure their success and focus on what validation looks like to you.