Rich Christiansen: Zig Zag Principle

Rich Christiansen: Zig Zag Principle

Rich Christiansen: Zig Zag Principle 150 150 33Voices


The most amazing principle that I’ve discovered in business is the Zig Zag Principle. I used to claim one out of three businesses would find great success, however; by applying the Zig Zag Principle I have found that I can hit a higher degree of success than ever before. At first the principle seems counterintuitive, but I’ve proved it over and over. It works!

In business schools, business books, and seminars, they teach us to set a goal and then drive directly toward that goal. The problem with that model is that it’s not natural. It’s not how we live our lives and it’s not how we should build our businesses either. If we do, the business will die.

I recently returned from spending a month in the Himalayas. While there, I observed how people climb mountains. We don’t climb straight up the mountain—if we do that, we die. Likewise, when we go on an outing we don’t beeline directly to the destination, if we do that, we die. Instead, we zig zag to our destinations whether it’s a Himalayan peak or an amusement park across town. So it is in the business world as well.

The trick, however; is that if we are not very deliberate and methodical with every turn in the Zig Zag, we get diverted. Instead of zig zagging to the goal, we get lost. Zig Zag is a methodical principle, a pragmatic approach, a model designed to help you deliberately set interim steps, a more sure way to achieve your business goal.

The first step, of course is to set a goal. You have to set what I call a big-hairy-audacious goal. You have to put something out there that acts as a beacon. It should be something that inspires you, something that drives you, and something that propels you toward taking actions you typically would not have the courage to take.

The next step is to assess where you are. Ask yourself: What resources do I already have? What do I have in my pocket that I can put towards this effort?

I’m a hardcore bootstrapper; so I suggest you very carefully look at every asset. This includes much more than just money. Financing is only a tiny part of what you will need. Take an accounting of the skills, attributes, relationships, talents, and other tools and resources you have.

At this point you have a big-hairy-audacious goal, and a complete assessment of the starting point. The next step is to look at the goal and instantly divert. This diversion is the first Zig. In this move you work to profitability. Always strive for profitability first.

I often say, “Go dance in the street in a tutu if that’s what it takes to get you to profitability.” The key however, is that this Zig has to be somewhat in alignment with the end goal. Don’t reverse direction to reach profitability. Once you’re profitable you have the power to move forward in an abundance mind set. This is a great feeling.

The second move is to Zag. This is when you add resources. Now is when you hire the people needed so that you are not the only one putting in all the effort. The Zag move also involves carefully implementing systems and processes for new hires to follow.

The final Zig is scale—meaning adding scale.   Scale is a component that allows rapid replication or automation of the process.  This is building something that does not require micro-management.  The scale component can be repeated rapidly at this point in the Zig Zag.

That is the Zig Zag Principle in a nutshell, but the most important aspect of the whole process is bounding it.  This is the hard fast rules that you put  in place for each zig and zag.  How much time you are going to allocate, how much resource,  the financial target you are trying to hit.  In short,  the definition of how you know that you have hit the turn point to the next zig or zag.  Bounding is so important that when you create a business plan or spend time on pro forma planning for a new business you literally need to dedicate an entire day or more to focusing on the goals of the pro forma. Next spend a solid week outlining each Zig and Zag.

Another important thing to consider in the planning stage is boundaries. I’m often asked, “How do I know when I’ve hit profitability?” It is crucial to set time, resource, and financial boundaries in the planning stage. You have to determine at what point you are profitable and will Zag to make hires and add other resources and then Zig to scale. Without these boundaries you may get diverted, forget to Zag, and end up in the weeds.

In conclusion—this works! Fundamentally it is extremely powerful. Zig zagging is how we naturally live our lives. The Zig Zag Principle works. It makes sense. It’s powerful. I’ve successfully used it repeatedly. I’m confident that if applied properly, the Zig Zag Principle will positively affect the way you do business and increase your success probability.

Much much much more to come on this!   We will give you a blow by blow as we develop The Zig Zag Principle and prepare it for publishing.