Ripcords in Business: A Prioritization Exercise Every Business Owners Should Do

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You’re probably familiar with the concept of a Minimum Viable Product. Coming up with the most essential, distilled version of a business you can put together and go-to-market with as a way to quickly test the opportunity.

The concept of an MVP has transformed enterprise, particularly in Silicon Valley and introduced the world to the idea of running a “lean Business”.

The issue is, once a business hits a certain scale, founders tend to lose sight of that lean approach — the mentality of distilling value goes out the window.

So there’s a cool exercise I run often I like to call the “Ripcord Exercise”. Essentially, imagine your entire business fell apart in a day — everything failed, your customers left, even the money in your business bank account vanishes.

What are you left with? What would you take with you as the Titanic sinks?

At Less Doing, it’s the Leaders program. We’d carry along the relationships with our leaders, continue helping them with their challenges, focusing on that. If all of our other programs fell apart, that’s the one we’d fall back to.

What you generally find when you run through this exercise is you prioritize — you’re forced to dig into the crux of what your business is, so you can see what you’re wasting time on.

One of my biggest challenges running Less Doing is with prioritization. I have a ton of ideas so I’m always throwing them up there on our Trello board (this is a common problem BTW: founder of Kissmetrics Hiten Shah says his company essentially failed because of his constant “Hiten bombs”)

The Ripcord exercise helps you isolate your vision by boiling down where your biggest value comes from. In our case, we’ve realized that the Leaders program is the essence of our business — so all of our prioritization now is aligned around Leaders.

It doesn’t mean we neglect our other programs, of course, but it gives us guidance — it’s a first-pass-filter for new ideas.

The other thing it does is force you to really think in terms of the funnel. So for instance, our priority list ended up looking something like 1) leaders, 2) other programs, 3) partnerships. If we really boil those down to the funnel, it ends up being 1) retention, 2) content/marketing, 3) outreach.

Just by going through this simple exercise we managed to nail down that our core focus right now is on retention. So we guide our efforts around building a fantastic experience, really delivering value, etc. so that we don’t really have to worry about new customers — we just focus on keeping our existing clients satisfied.

As you can see, a pretty simple thought exercise, when carried all the way through, can completely illuminate the way you prioritize in your business.

“How well does this align with our vision?”

That’s a question you should be asking yourself every time you’re mulling over a new idea. Try the Ripcord exercise to gain that clarity.

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