Welcome To Your Virtual Academy For Entrepreneurship:

A place to start, fix or scale your business with —

How to Build a Business From Scratch

As seen in Forbes.

Trying to build a business?

And I don’t mean just flailing in the wind with product ideas, half-hearted brainstorms and trying to make a quick buck or two.  I mean a real business.

Built to last (yes, stolen from Jim Collins) — strong for the long haul, serving a higher purpose.

Are you interested in building this kind of company?

If yes; then bingo — you’ve found the right place.  But if you’re flailing and flapping, trying to strike it rich with the least amount of work possible, perhaps you should reconsider your tactics?

Regardless of where you are now, you can be sitting in the driver’s seat of your strong company with 4 solid steps.

First, a word of warning though:

Yes — you’ll get 4 steps on how to build a forever strong company from scratch.  But, these steps are not meant to be done in one night.  These are not the “4 Easy Steps to Brushing Your Teeth”.

You know; Step 1: Get your toothbrush.  Step 2:  Put toothpaste on it.  Step 3: Stick it in your mouth and brush.  Step 4:  Spit and rinse.

No, this is deeper.  These steps are simple, but far from easy.  Why?

Because building a forever strong company is never easy.

Although the world wants to brainwash you with fairy-tales of instant wealth and overnight success, it’s simply a load of baloney.

And when it does happen?  It’s an aberration.  A fluke.  Like with Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger of Instagram. You have a better shot of getting hit in the rear with a bolt of lightning than hitting a payday like this in such a short amount of time.

But don’t fret.  You can do it.  You can build a solid business.  So how do you build one from scratch?  Buckle up; ‘cause here we go…

Step 1:  Have 110% clarity around your vision, purpose and core values.

clar·i·ty [klar-i-tee]  noun = 1. clearness as to understanding; freedom from ambiguity.

Hopefully you’re closer on nailing this than some entrepreneurs I know.

Listen — get a clear understanding of where you want to go and why.

Not from a product viewpoint though.  Think bigger picture.  What is the higher purpose for your company?  What does your company (or you as the founder) believe?  Why do you believe what you believe?

Big vision, core values and higher purpose are the foundations from which great entrepreneurs build great companies.

Look at Steve Jobs.  His whole motto in life was “Think Different”.  I mean have you ever heard the guy?  Spewing quotes much different than others.  Thinking differently with bigger purpose and vision.

That’s why Apple is different.  Because of their founder; Mr. Jobs.  Focusing on the why and their bigger picture purpose, Apple pops out unbelievable products.

Now can you do the same?  Yes.  You can.  You have to believe in your vision.  See it.  Trust in it.

And then just get clarity on it.

Step 2:  Once you have absolute clarity on your vision — time to do a realistic assessment.

Yes — now is the time to have a heart-to-heart with reality.

Reality of what?

Well, start with yourself.  Your experiences, gifts, passion, life goals and areas of weakness.  Seriously.  Knowing thyself is the first place to start on your trek toward your vision.

Oh, and it’s no time to sugar coat things either.  I know it hurts — but you’ve got to dig deep.  Whip that shovel out and start digging.

Not only do you need to lay out what you’re good at, you need to spill the beans on what my grandma can do better than you.  Meaning?  Get it all on the table.  Weaknesses too.

Next, you need to assess the resources available to you.  Stuff like people, money, connections and know-how.  Figure out what you have and what you don’t have access to.  No man can build an island by himself with nary a resource in sight.

Finally, take a peek out the window and assess the world you want to play in.  Your target market, the competition, and any other outside influence that will affect your ability to reach your vision.

And wow.  Especially important is getting a grip on your target customer.  Goodness, entrepreneurs should be sleeping, eating, drinking and taking showers with their target base.  And yes, even helping brush their teeth.

Seriously, how else you going to learn their pain points?  Always better to sell the cure.  Which means you have to know their pain.

All this assessment adds up to a whole bunch of research, engagement and learning.

Asking questions of yourself.  Asking questions of your target market.  Asking questions of the world.

Crazy as it sounds, most entrepreneurs skip this entire step.  Why?  I don’t know.  But it’s a bad idea.

Don’t be like them.  In such a big hurry to hit the lottery.  Busting out the front door.  Screaming from the house with idea in hand.

However, did you notice something?  You’re in such a hurry to get there you’re running butt naked down the middle of the street with no clothes.

Now why in the world would you do that?  Yikes.  Do some assessment first, will you?  If you look down and you’re naked; at least grab some clothes on the way out the door.

Oh, and a quick note on going through this entire step:  Doing so may actually create the urge to change your vision.

Why?  Because sometimes we discover things about ourselves and the world we live in to cause a shift.  Makes us think differently.  Wakes us up to a different vision.

And that’s okay.  Since being crystal clear on your vision is critical — better to tweak it now than to discover you’ve been chasing the wrong vision for 10 years.  Ouch.  That one hurts.

Step 3:  Strategic thinking and value innovation.

Sounds fancy, right?

Don’t fret, ‘cause it’s really not.  However, it is important.  But simple too.  Like this:

Slap a whiteboard on the wall and get to work figuring out how to solve the pain of your customer in a unique and profitable way.

Simple; yes.  Easy?  No.

Basically, think big picture — where creativity, insight and wisdom play a huge role.

The cool thing here is you already know where you want to go (Step 1), and you’ve figured out where you are (Step 2).  Now you just need to build some ways (strategy) to get from A to B.

You know, like if you’re in Minnesota and freezing your buns off (where you are now).  And your vision is to escape to Florida (where you want to go) so you can thaw out (why you want to go there).  Well, from Minnesota you can take a bus, car or plane to get to Florida (strategies for getting there).  You just need to weigh the options and figure out the best strategy for you.

Now, creating strategy and value innovation for your business is a whole book unto itself.  Literally.  There are many types of process and methodologies behind strategic thinking and planning.  But in essence, it comes down to this:

You know where you are; you know where you want to go; you now just have to list all the ways to get from point A to point B.  Once you’ve done this, you then need to narrow it down to which way (or ways) give you the best chance of getting there.


And the other critical take away is “strategy” only comes into play after you’ve gone through defining your vision and assessing where you are today.  If you don’t know where you want to go on vacation, and don’t know where you are now, best of luck to you in planning your getaway… ‘cause it ain’t going to happen.  Unless you just plan to wander aimlessly all over the place.

What’s next?  Perhaps the most difficult and time consuming of them all…

Step 4: Execution. Without action, you can forget it.

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that.  A lot of people have ideas — but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer — not a dreamer.”

- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Thanks Nolan.

And this is what separates the men from the boys.  Or I guess the ladies from the little girls.

You have to get up out of your chair; or crawl off the sofa; or jump up from the bench, and get into the game.

The bottom line?  You can forget a forever strong company if you can’t execute the strategies you’ve outlined above.

Sorry to say; all your fancy ideas matter not:  It’s whether you can make them happen.

The cool thing though?  Once you have gone through the first 3 steps, execution is easier because you know what important tactics you must work on.

I think most entrepreneurs run around with a paper bag on their head smashing into walls and such.   Trying to do way too many things at once and not really understanding what things they should be working on.  You know — the high-value stuff?  The daily tasks — as outlined in your strategy — which really bring you closer to your vision.

If you have clarity on your vision and purpose, and fully understand where you are now (assessment), and go through the strategic thinking process on how to best reach your vision, then you’ll know what steps to execute.

And always remember this:

Execution of a grand vision and purpose comes in taking the little steps.

You don’t just land on the moon because you want and have vision to.  Took JFK and NASA 10 years to get it done — after the vision.  Successful execution comes by completing the small, connected steps along the way.  Make sense?

So there you have it.  Four incredibly simple, but far from easy, steps you can take to build a forever strong company from scratch.

Each step is critical, and each step works best when done in order.  And the good news?  You can start this today.  Doesn’t matter where you are as an entrepreneur.  Even if your company is several years old, you can still go through this process.

And yes, you should.

Either way, just go for it.  As Nolan so eloquently stated above; “…get off your butt and do something”.

So what are you going to do next? What’s your next move my friend? Share with me below.  :-)

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About the Author: Eric T. Wagner is a husband, father and life-long entrepreneur. After starting multiple businesses, Eric is now focused on helping other entrepreneurs find the path to success in business and life. You can also catch his gig on Forbes or connect with him on Google+.


  1. Hi Eric,

    Great post, I’d love to pick one aspect of it and say why it’s so important but the truth is all four aspects are equally important!
    The first 3 steps pretty much describe what I do with my clients, but the last step? Well that’s up to them! I do my best to help and encourage them but ultimately it all comes down to the doing! Glad to say most of them get it done :)
    Thanks for reminding me I’m on the right track :)

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Gemma. You’re right — first 3 steps don’t matter one little bit without step 4. :-)

  2. That is the secret of building a successful business in a nutshell. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately and with some big things happening and major changes coming up, I realized that in order to move forward at full speed, I need to focus on the “high-value stuff” you mentioned. Stay tuned for my big announcement, my friend.

  3. Eric

    I would like to take parts of this and have tatooed on some peoples forheads, so they can see it everyday when they look in the mirror!

    You can’t build something without foundations, and each of these 4 steps are core pillars. Ignore one and the whole operation becomes unstable…a bit like a three legged stool.

  4. BAM!

    Smash hit, outta the park Eric. I fully agree with all of it :)

    Clarity, vision, strategy, execution.

    And I love the naked-down-the-street-analogy. lol. so good.

    Like most things in life, the general steps are easy and clear, the specific execution is nuanced + individual :)

  5. *Glancing up at my whiteboard grinning ;)

    “Execution of a grand vision comes in taking the little steps,” very succinctly put, my man.

    It’s easy to be taken aback as you stand at the foot of Mt. Everest, but making it to the top happens from the sum of each and every stride. Sound wisdom here, Eric.

  6. Eric,

    Great post! From what I see and maybe even my own initial business it’s step #1 that foils most would be business owners… They don’t have a firm understanding of their Vision for that business…. Then they can’t be successful at the rest.


    Ryan H.

  7. Hi Eric,

    Got to say, this is the best post I’ve read from you so far :)

    All the points you laid out here get easily mixed into one complicated mess that’s so difficult to handle that not many people even try. You made the process seem “simple”. At least simpler to understand that the huge mess…

    Don’t really have much to add, which is only a good thing, right? :D

  8. Hi Eric,

    I like the 4 Easy Steps To Brushing Your Teeth analogy. That’s not a bad thing. This isn’t rocket science you know but the reason why SO many businesses fail is that they don’t do the planning, they have a vague idea about where they want to be but have no idea how they’re going to get there. It’s all pipedreams.

    Plan, plan, plan. Then do. Don’t be, as someone I know says, “world champion at getting ready!

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Funny. World champion at getting ready. Like it.

      And yes — not good to win that award for sure.

      Thanks Mike. :-)

  9. Awesome post Eric, a must read for beginners like me :)
    Special thanks for reminding me the 4th step!

  10. Michael J. Stelmakh says:

    Hi, Eric! It’s a very interesting research of Collins & Porras, “Built ro last”. And about Instagram I think that it’s somethink unusual and neither of this company owners have read Your “How to build a business from scratch” article :) And also I want to add that better imagination leads to better results. And that the more different interests you have – the better you can solve any questions, because you can see the wider picture of your problem.
    Hope my points will help somebody. As same as yours. Thanks :)

    • Michael J. Stelmakh says:

      “Built to last” * :)

    • Eric T. Wagner says:

      Thanks Michael. Agreed on having a wide range of experiences and interests. Definitely helps to be well-rounded with solving problems.

      Thanks for sharing my friend. :-)

  11. gennesaret damaris ajuka says:

    This is really something To meditate on,because sometimes the picture of the future looks so enchanting that it sometimes masks the hurdles one has to cross to get there.Reading these priceless information you just shared now is going a long way at helping me dot all my ‘t’sand cross all my ‘I’sin my bid to contribute my quota at making the world a better place through the positive power of business.Thank you so so much eric!

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