If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen

Paul Nebel 3 minute read

Running Value Proposition (VP) sessions is hard.

It can be testing and tedious. If a VP is to be of maximum value you have to force yourself to think about your customer in as much detail as you possibly can. It’s boring spending all this time thinking about something you want to change or eliminate. It can be uncomfortable for those who realise that they don’t understand their customer as well as they thought they did. You may end up writing down a lot of things that seem so obvious that they appear to be of little value. Sure, you know it’s best practice but you’ve given it a go. Can’t you just get on with building your solution and not have to mess around with all this stuff any more?

As a consequence, you end up skipping steps and rushing to create your Value Proposition Statements as quickly as possible in order to justify how you got to where you are and where you want to go from here. You write down some assumptions because you know you need to but you can’t possibly test any of this stuff! Surely the only way to know for sure is to do it and see what happens?

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well

So, why should you bother slowing down and doing it properly when you can run through the process in your head?

It’s worth recording your Value Proposition sessions for the following reasons:

  • Once it’s on paper you don’t have to keep it in your head - As an entrepreneur you have so many things to attend to that the less you have to keep track of mentally the better. Writing down your VP sessions removes the need to continually review and remember the details leaving more mental space for all the other important things you have to think about.
  • You can share it - Repeating yourself can quickly become tedious. Every time you meet a potential new partner/investor/employee you are going to have to tell your story over again. If you have an annotated picture to help you can be sure that you’re covering all the relevant points and telling a consistent story every time you do it.
  • It’s less stressful once it’s done - With so many things to do (see the first point above) it’s quite easy to achieve a critical insight one day and not be able to recall it the next day. If you’ve written it down you can share it with yourself at any point in the future (see the second point above). Speaking personally, that makes me feel a lot less stressed!
  • You may be surprised how much you overlook - One of the strengths of having an independent facilitator running your VP sessions is that she doesn’t have the same implicit knowledge you have about the problem you are trying to solve. This makes it far more likely that she will ask the obvious, awkward, critical question that you didn’t think to ask yourself because it didn’t seem relevant.
  • It makes it easier to justify your position - If you don’t catalogue the steps you’ve taken it can be difficult to remember how or why you reached a particular outcome. Going through the process again wastes time and you still may not remember how you made your decisions. Avoid forgetting crucial steps in your thought process by writing them down.
  • Describe what you don’t solve as well as what you do - This makes your offering clearer to yourself and to customers, making it far less likely that customers will become unhappy because of false expectations. It also gives you options for pivoting if necessary and for future expansion.
  • Challenge your thinking - Being forced to think about your problem in a different way can result in unexpected insights.
  • It makes it harder to write VP statements - Making something harder may not seem like a step forward, but the temptation when preparing VP statements is to be way too verbose. Choosing one post-it from your VP canvas for each part of the statement forces you to prioritise. I often find that founders want to say something that isn’t in the VP canvas, which begs the question “why didn’t you mention this when creating the VP canvas?”.

I hope that at least some of the reasons presented above can persuade you to make the effort to conduct VP sessions properly by writing down what you do, despite the additional effort this requires. After all, if it were easy creating an exciting and innovative new business we’d all be doing it, right?

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