Baby Steps To Greatness

Staircase on Fuel Storage Tank

I was about 13 when I first watched What About Bob? and so the power of the Baby Steps program devised by Richard Dreyfuss’s character wasn’t immediately apparent to me.

In the movie, the baby steps program is presented as the path to a life free of fear. The idea is simple enough and is an oft-used psychological tool. As an example, let’s say that you’re deathly afraid of spiders. To overcome your fear, you might start by putting a vial with a dead spider in your office. Then, maybe you put a caged live spider in the room with you. Next thing you know, a spider scurrying over your foot no longer causes you to run for the highest point in the room screaming for your cat.

Baby steps become infinitely more useful when you realize that the principle can be applied to any goal you want to achieve. This became particularly apparent to me during our search for a CRM system to use at Setaris. At the time, we were doing what a typical startup does. Lead tracking for us was a messy combination of e-mails, post-it notes and fuzzy memories. Eventually we realized it would be good to establish something a little more robust.

Given our high computer geek density, we initially decided that custom software was the way to go. We reasoned that, though there were plenty of free and open source solutions out there, none of the existing solutions met our needs. Either they were too complex or failed to meet one of our requirements. We eventually reconsidered this decision in light of budgetary constraints and, instead, began using vTiger and then eventually SugarCRM. We spent a bunch of time getting Sugar set up just right and then guess what happened? It hardly got used.

There are plenty of reasons why Sugar failed at the time but it mostly came down to there not being enough leads to make the features Sugar has to offer worth the extra time it took to enter leads. Unfortunately, this lesson came with a pretty hefty price tag. It’s in helping to avoid mistakes like this that the baby steps mantra becomes priceless. The next time you want to make a change in your organization, channel Bob and  follow these steps:

  1. Write down the ideal solution – this is usually the first solution you’ll consider. For example, we decided to set up SugarCRM.
  2. Write down your goal for the solution. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Very often, you’ll find your ideal solution solves much more than the problem you describe. We only wanted to track leads in a centralized place.
  3. Reconsider your goal. Are you sure you need all that stuff? You might try the 5 whys method here to ensure you’re being honest with yourself.
  4. Once you have your minimal goal, determine the simplest solution that satisfies that goal. In product development, we call this the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Our MVP was a simple google spreadsheet.
  5. Execute your solution. Remember, though, that even a simple, low friction solution is going to have more friction than the previous solution (which might have just been a free-for-all). If you want your solution adopted, you still need to create the appropriate environment for those affected. More on that later.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Joshua Fialkoff

Joshua’s tech and management expertise has been honed over time by the vast array of products he has helped architect and create. Since the dot com boom, he has worked as a manager, developer, graphic designer and entrepreneur. Today he shares his experience and knowledge with others in pursuit of great products and successful businesses.

As a proud and ambitious Setaris co-founder, Joshua is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve culture, generate excitement and make Setaris the best technology and marketing firm on the market. Joshua holds a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering from Cooper Union and a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an emphasis on pattern recognition and signal estimation.

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