Have you ever been working on a new idea or project within your business and taken the ‘What have we got left’ approach?

I recently met with an established business owner who was just in the process of getting ready to take a new product, an education based science app, to market. He admitted that they were struggling to find a way to sufficiently allocate their existing resources to dedicate enough time to their new project and they were also worried about potential disruption to their existing business.

Their approach

They had a brainstorming session to look at what resources and time they had available within the business and then allocated that over their current operations to work out what they had left to allocate to the new project.

During the process they set a target for the new project – to reach 1,000 schools over 5 years. They reasoned that this was a fair target because 20 a month seemed tough but achievable. Finally, they identified that they should hire a salesperson to start selling their product and had several ideas of how that person should go about it.

Isolate your idea – give it the approach it deserves

Is this approach sensible? It’s understandable why some business owners end up going down this road. You can be so ingrained in your existing business it’s hard to think outside the box and identify the realms of possibility.

What are your aims for the project and what are those aims based on? Are they based on current knowledge? Are they based on current expectations, resources and/or historical performance? It’s reasonable to base them on what you currently know and have, but it also acts as a hindrance and can obscure your view and ability to give your idea the attention that it really deserves.

You need to, just for a moment at least, separate yourselves from what you currently are and currently have and consider your idea in isolation. Think outside the box.

What does your idea require to allow it to reach its full potential? What is the optimum strategy? What resources are required to deliver it?

Once you have identified the above you can then decide a) if you want to pursue it at the optimum level, depending on your risk appetite, and b) if you do, then how you will go about doing that, potentially raising funds through investment or a loan, if required.

Let’s go back to their target. Why 1,000 schools over 5 years? 20 a month – seems like a lot doesn’t it? It’s not an unreasonable target, however, it’s completely arbitrary. It was set before identifying a suitable strategy for execution.

Without defining a clear approach that has been tried and tested and also ideated by someone with relevant experience of what works and what doesn’t, it’s very difficult to begin to set meaningful targets – finger in the air stuff.

After completing your strategy exercise you might identify, for example, that the best method of winning schools is to invite 200 headteachers down to a regional event. You might expect let’s say half to sign up. You might then run this event regionally 5 times a year and reach your target of 1,000 schools in two years rather than five. This exercise might also identify that you don’t need an in-house salesperson and can utilise your budget to run the events.

You may also identify that another strategy could be to reach out to unique contacts who could unlock the door to huge volumes of schools in one go, potentially within government or local councils. This again will alter your strategy and how you allocate your resources.

Taking it forward

Once you have agreed on your aims, approach and set a clear and executable strategy, identify if you need to generate additional resources. If so there are a whole host of options available to you from investment to loans. You may need to position your idea within a new entity to obtain attractive tax reliefs, SEIS and EIS, for prospective investors. If you are unsure of the best way to go about this reach out to an external advisor who has the relevant experience.


  1. Set your aims. Figure out what you’re happy with, your desires, ambitions. You might be happy with a small and steady business generating you a reasonable income.
  2. Create a clear and executable strategy. Once you’ve identified your aims, work out how to achieve them. Create a clear and executable strategy and stick to it and measure performance along the way. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as the correct strategy. What you initially think should work might not end up working at all, so you have to be agile and responsive and make sure you are monitoring all the relevant signals.
  3. Obtain your resources, if required. Once you have identified the strategy and calculated what resources you might need then identify how you might get them. Investment, particularly if you are can attract SEIS and EIS relief can be a very encouraging benefit to potential investors due to the significant tax breaks involved.
  4. Execute. Once you have raised the funds, if required, execute execute execute!


James Segal is the founder of SynergyMode. Read his article on starting his business here, or connect with him on LinkedIn here.