How to Start Anything

Recently, as I was being interviewed during a webinar, someone asked me how to get an analytics program started. My answer to these sorts of queries — how to get something started — is always the same.

Based on my decades in business, there are three fundamental questions that should be considered when looking to start a new venture or program. They are:

  • How does my company make money? (If you’re in a nonprofit, what is the mission?)
  • Who can I partner with to make this happen?
  • What do we have to do now to be successful in the future?

During the past 30 years, there have been plenty of books proposing the secret way to do something, and many of them have useful things to say. But for universal, undying truths, they tend to fall short.

To be sure, I’m not claiming to know the secret. I’m just saying that, in my experience, I’ve found there are three things that are helpful under any circumstance.

That being said, the best solution is often the simplest one. Think E=mc2. Those three letters have driven almost a century of scientific investigation and discovery. The more adjectives, adverbs and conditions we put on an answer, the less likely it will be on target.

With that, allow me to explain why I believe the three issues above to be practical paths to starting a venture.

The reason I ask how the company makes money is because the answer should drive strategic decisions and tactical actions. Of course, there are instances where humanitarian factors override financial ones. But even in those cases, if an organization acts in a humanitarian way, value returns — usually in the form of an excellent reputation, and, as we know in hiring, a positive reputation is a competitive advantage.

This goes back to the notion of what we put out is what we get back. The purpose of a company is to create a customer. Customers are the source of income and are attracted by a number of factors: quality — exceptional attributes of a company’s products; innovation — originality that leads the market; price — better return on the customer’s investment; and service — exceeding the customer’s expectations. These are called QIPS.

Every company survives and prospers to the degree its QIPS are better than the competition. And human resources practitioners are responsible to do more than just provide a service. Your job is to deliver a service that enhances the company’s QIPS. Why else would they pay you?

Partnering is the bedrock of organizational effectiveness. Organizations ride on the interaction of people. The concept of the word “organization” is a synonym for group, association or union of people working together.

Almost nothing of significance can be achieved in an organization by one’s singular action. We need tools, facilities, energy and the support of others to generate value.

People complain they don’t have the data needed to initiate an analytics program. This means they have to find someone who has the data and can be persuaded to share it. How do you make that happen?

Return to the concept of reciprocity. What you put out is what you get back. Go to your prospective partner with a description of how your program will benefit the partner as well as contribute to answering the company’s money question. HR people are supposed to be the people folks of an organization. We are good partners who know how to work with others.

In any event, there is only one thing management can do — improve the future. Nevertheless, it can teach us and prepare us to make tomorrow better than yesterday or today. Providing a service that’s no better today than it was yesterday is, by definition, stagnation.

Every day companies must improve service to remain competitive, create new customers and make profit. Therefore, to start anything in business, the foundational components must come from answering the questions that best represent the reason the organization exists in the first place.

Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and The Predictive Initiative. He can be reached at