The following is a guest post by Omar Zenhom. Omar is a life long entrepreneur and educator. He’s the co-founder of an alternative business education called The $100 MBA. Omar attended Wharton business school and dropped out in frustration with the education system to build The $100 MBA. With his over decade experience as an entrepreneur and 12 years experience as a teacher, he and his partner Nicole created an business training program that has revolutionized business education forever. Productivityist readers can sign up and get a FREE course and workbook from the $100 MBA to help you start their business!
Launching a new project is not fun. It’s just not.
You could be launching a new book, a new website, product or even a whole new business. Often in the online world, a launch is presented to be as exciting as a training montage in a Rocky movie. Those two minutes of amped up music and quick scenes of Balboa sweating out the mediocre in him is actually months of gruelling hard work that seemed to have no payoff in sight.
Yes, the actual launch day is exciting. But launching (the months of work prior) is not only not exciting, it’s terrifying.
There are all sorts of fears and voices screaming out at you saying all kinds of things. The 5 loudest words being repeated most often that scare us the most are: “Will you launch on time?”
But this post is not all doom and gloom. There is good news. Lots of it!
I’ve been doing some major launching these past 6 months – 4 launches to be specific. During these launches, I learned a ton about how to launch a project on time…and today I’m going to share with you everything I know on how to do it without losing your head. I’ll be sharing my own personal system that really has made this whole launching thing a bit easier.
The best way for me to show you exactly how to organize your next project so you launch on time is to show you how I organized mine. (I should actually say, “How we organized ours.” I can’t launch a spitball without my partner Nicole.)
Today is launch day for us. A project we have been working on over the past 2 months. A whole new kind of business podcast called The $100 MBA Show. Your project may need 2 months or it may need 4 months – or even more time. Regardless, you can apply this system to a project of any size.
No matter how large your project is, it’s always a good idea to leave a little room for the unexpected. You need to always leave 4-5 days of buffer between your plan and launch day. This whole thing is about planning and tracking. Let’s get into it!
Caveat: Before beginning this system you should have already decided what you are actually launching (i.e. an eBook about how to groom your long haired cat or, in our case, a daily, no-fluff, 10 minute business podcast). Need help validating your idea before beginning? Take this free course.
Laying the Foundation
The first thing Nicole and I did when planning our launch for The $100 MBA Show was to have a 2 hour discussion with a cup of caffeine in hand. If you are flying solo, then you still need to brainstorm. Notes need to be taken. We use pen and paper, but you can use whatever tool works best for you to jot down ideas quickly. Two major things get discussed in this meeting:
1. Our Audience
We write down what pains our audience is experiencing and what we plan to do to alleviate these pains with the project at hand. Here is an example with our project:
- Pains: Our audience has enough interview podcasts on their playlist. They simply want to get better at business everyday. They want something to the point and is content driven. They don’t have an hour to spend on a podcast every day to achieve this.
- Solution: A daily 10 minute podcast modelled after a language teaching podcast, Coffee Break French, that actually teaches French lessons. Our show will deliver business lessons for the real world in an upbeat style with innovative segments like guest teachers that teach their area of expertise (look out for Mike Vardy’s episode). An actual curriculum integrated in the show that puts education at the forefront of the podcast.
What are some of your audience’s pains and how do you plan to solve them with your project? Write these down. They will help guide your whole project from this point forward.
2. Any and All Ideas
All ideas for our podcast are presented and hashed out here and now. These all relate to point #1 above. Music ideas, how long the show will be, outcomes we hope to achieve, and if and who we will collaborate with.
Once all our ideas are down, we agree on which ones we need to implement. These are the ones that are both absolutely crucial to the project‘s success and needed before we launch. We also identify which ones we can leave off until after we actually launch. Those items can be worked on after this thing actually exists in the world.
Now that we have discussed and decided on what this project will look like once launched, we have to turn those ideas into actionable tasks.
One of the ideas we had for the podcast was to have guest teachers on to teach lessons. Great idea! But that is not an actual task. We had to create a task (or tasks) out of that idea. Hhere are a few specific tasks we had to create for this idea to become a reality:
- Identify what gaps in the podcast’s curriculum that can be filled by a guest teacher
- Identify 6 relevant experts to teach. We only need 6 guest teacher episodes before launch
- Email all 6 guest teachers inviting them to the project with instructions and our format for teaching
I can go on but you get the point. The more specific you are with your tasks, the easier it will be to….
Assign a deadline for each task
Take an educated guess based on past experiences as to how long a task will take you…and then double it. It always takes a lot longer than you think it does. We usually do this in increments of hours. I rarely find a task that I have set out to do take less than an hour.
If you are working alone, don’t just skip this step. There might be a whole bunch of tasks you can assign to a virtual assistant for a very small amount of money. This also includes any design or tech work you will be hiring out to get done.
If you are in a team like Nicole and I, it’s time to decide who will be responsible for what. We do these with Post-It notes on our whiteboard (as shown in the image attached to this post). I’m orange, Nicole is pink, and then we’re off to the races as soon as we…
Order tasks by level of urgency
This is a step many people skip and are sorry they did later on. Some tasks need to be done sooner than others because there are other tasks that are contingent on its completion.
For example, reaching out to guest teachers to offer a lesson on the show is very high in our urgency scale. Why? Because we need an answer from them: are they in or out? Then they will need to record their lesson and send it to us before we can edit the episode. I can’t count on having their episode ready in time for launch if I don’t give them enough time to record beforehand.
Set and announce your launch date
The best thing you can do to ensure you launch on time is this. Decide on your exact launch date and time and then announce it publicly. We recommend writing a blog post about it. Let your audience know what you are working on and let them know something very exciting is soon to come. Put it up on social media and make it a part of your weekly email newsletter.
By announcing it publicly it makes it incredibly hard to even think about not launching on time. This puts your buns on the grill (so to speak) and takes accountability to a whole new level.
Getting the Work Done
Know your energy
When do you produce your best work? When are you most creative? It’s different for everyone. For my friend Matt, it’s early mornings. For me it’s early afternoons after my coffee and breakfast have kicked in. For you, it could be late at night.
The point is to dedicate the time you are most creative to doing creative work like writing, designing, or speaking. This is where the juice of what you are launching gets made. Other tasks like emailing, phone calls, research, and social media can be done at a time of day when you are not in full form. Save the important stuff for when you are at your best.
Stay on task
I was a school and college teacher for over a decade and one of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to get your lesson plan done before the bell rings. This is not because I’m going off on tangents, it’s because you are constantly trying to keep the students on task.
This is a lot harder said than done these days for teachers because it’s not just doodling, daydreaming, and passing notes that’s keeping the students off task. Teachers have to compete with the internet, smartphones, and Facebook. You can’t possibly expect your students to get anything done during your lesson if they are not focused on the task at hand.
You now have all your tasks all laid out. Time to get focused and see them through. You’ve got to shut everything off that will keep you from completing your task at hand. As I type this in my text editor, I have my wi-fi off and no other applications open. I don’t trust my curious brain. Keep any and all distractions out of sight. (This might even mean changing your workspace.)
The week leading up to launch week is not a week you should take lightly. Evaluate how on track you are. If you are off track for any reason, don’t panic. You can still pull this off.
Changing your launch date is out of the question, so take a look if there are any items on your task list you can live with having on launch day. There should be some you can do in the few days after launch day.
I know that Amy Hoy launched Freckle knowing users could not manually reset their passwords. She had to launch so she simply did. She just manually reset passwords on her end for users that requested to do so. She eventually had that sorted but she made the right decision and launched without that task completed.
Take a look at any uncompleted tasks that are critical to the delivery of your product/ service/ content. In our case, we have to make sure that our podcast episodes are hosted properly on SoundCloud, our podcast feed has been accepted by iTunes and is ready for users to consume. Without these tasks completed, nothing gets delivered and the launch flops worse than a Milli Vanilli world tour.
For you, it might be making sure your payment processor (i.e. Stripe, PayPal) is configured properly. Make sure you’ve made a test payment. Don’t sleep on this!
Make sure you remind your audience/readers what date and time you are launching a few days before your launch, the day before launch, and the day of launch. Show your excitement to share what you have been working on if you have not already throughout the launch process.
There will always be some level of stress in every launch. You are launching something dear to you and you want things to go well. But the right planning and tracking will make it a whole lot easier on your head and your heart.
I have launched over 30 projects in my entrepreneurial career and it never goes exactly to plan so don’t lose your cool if things don’t go quite as you imagined. Stay flexible and remember that launching your thing is just the beginning. You have a whole lifetime to keep improving and iterating to your heart’s content.
Take action using this system and you should find yourself launching on time with all your marbles in place.
Want to get better at business everyday and can spare 10 minutes a day? Then I invite you to check out a whole new kind of podcast: The $100 MBA Show. Our daily, no-fluff, 10 minute business lessons are practical and straight to the point. With this delivery method, you can build upon what you learn every day of the week. If you subscribe, rate, and review us on iTunes, we will send you a bunch of surprise goodies and a chance to win a free lifetime membership to The $100 MBA – our complete business training and community! Just email us at email@example.com with a screenshot of your iTunes rating and review.
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