Next for Me
While targeted to entrepreneurs over 50, Next for Me is really for anyone creating a new business. The authors and business partners, Carole McManus and Jeff Tidwell, are two self-described “time-tested Silicon Valley professionals” with careers spanning startups to Fortune 500 companies. They don’t claim to know the secret formula for success. By openly sharing their vulnerabilities, struggles, restarts, and successes in bootstrapping their own lean venture, they show what it really takes to create and grow a business starting from “an idea that will make the world a better place.”
In the Beginning
McManus and Tidwell began their company, Next For Me, with an idea for a platform to help aging Americans who want to stay relevant in the workforce:
Next For Me connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution.
From their perspective, the most important work for an entrepreneur is defining core values to find a “Philosophical Center,” decide on “Guiding Principles,” and choose trustworthy advisors and partners who share those values. The goal is to provide a “gut check” for making business decisions, and understand “what your brand aspires to in the hearts and minds of consumers and its communities.”
Single-topic chapters that get right to the point are basically grouped into three sections progressing from concepts to practical tips: 1) Philosophical, 2) Fresh Perspectives/Open-Mindedness, and 3) High-Mindedness to Tactical. An abundance of information is expertly condensed into a small number of pages, with many helpful takeaways. My favorite is the notion borrowed from the tech industry of having an open mindset toward problem-solving: “the hacker’s challenge … is to find workarounds to get there another way, another way that doesn’t require a lot of resources, money, or time and doesn’t compromise the whole system.”
As a Boomer who aspires to start a business myself without yet having a solid plan or timetable, I wondered at first whether the book was really applicable to my situation. I’m definitely in the dreamer camp; it’s too early to know where the path will lead. To say I’m unsure of my next move is a huge understatement. The book is not a detailed blueprint. It does not have step-by-step directions for starting a business. Instead, it focuses on questions to ask to clarify your intentions and offers advice in broad strokes for building a network and navigating the challenges of an early-stage venture.
Always be Publishing
Even so, I appreciated many of the recommendations as inspirational, and worthy of revisiting in the future. The authors are publishers and believe that every business should “Always be Publishing.” They encourage writing and generating content as a means to “tell the world what you’re doing,” and observe that “if you can’t articulate it, you can’t sell it…and if you can’t sell it, you’re out of business.”
Visualization and drawing are two strategies they touch on that are geared toward looking differently at the information you have; for example, to visualize new connections, break down problems, or communicate with a team. “Sometimes,” they explain, “to get from concept to desired outcome, you need to have a concrete representation.” This can be scribbles on a napkin, post-it notes on a wall, a flowchart, screenshots, or an old-fashioned “mood board” with photos and clippings. “Mapping your business” is another visual technique they use. The map can be low-tech with index cards or high-tech with one of many existing software applications. In their real-world example, the authors mapped their business and discovered a serious gap in their financial model.
Perhaps the best advice, though, which should be a no-brainer – but bears repeating – is to counter the stress of starting a business by practicing mind/body self-care in order to “stay standing, both physically and metaphorically.” The authors suggest “meditation, exercise, and other ‘get up from the computer’ activities.” Not surprisingly, they specifically recommend limiting the use of social media.
Next for Me is a Guidebook
In the best sense of the word, Next for Me is a guidebook, one that can initially be read quickly, re-re-read often, and kept as a reference. The authors are very smart people. I was impressed with their knowledge as well as their empathy for entrepreneurial “dreamers.” If you are willing to invest the time, they have included a thoughtful sequence of exercises and questions to help envision and build a satisfying, viable business. My recommendation is to get a highlighter and a notebook and dive in. You will most certainly learn something.
This was written by Adele Field. Adele is a writing and marketing communications professional with a background in publishing and PR. She moved from Los Angeles to a family property in rural Montana in search of a healthier, more affordable, more authentic life. While personal creative projects such as managing a community garden and writing a comedy podcast feed her soul and help counter the isolation of her remote location, Adele is patching together a living in the gig economy. She currently telecommutes with an offshore medical-legal documents company, manages email campaigns and websites for small businesses, and edits books and proposals for emerging authors.