The Critical First Step For Starting a Business - Ignore at your own risk | Ken Vernon | Skillshare
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The Critical First Step For Starting a Business - Ignore at your own risk

teacher avatar Ken Vernon, Life Lessons 4 Business

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Critical First Step Introduction

      4:04

    • 2.

      Optimism Can Sabotage Your New Business

      5:58

    • 3.

      Primary Factor of Success or Failure

      3:41

    • 4.

      Three Key Questions

      3:25

    • 5.

      Research and Target

      4:55

    • 6.

      Get Direct Input

      5:18

    • 7.

      Document All Input

      6:22

    • 8.

      Let's Review

      2:00

    • 9.

      Next Steps

      1:44

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About This Class

In this class we are going to provide a roadmap for developing critical insights that will help you determine if your new online business idea is more likely to succeed or fail before you invest significant amounts of time and money in your idea

This class will take you step-by-step through tried and true processes for identifying, understanding and evaluating the market for your new business idea.

 In this class we'll cover:

1. Motivations to start a business

2. The risk of starting a business

2. How to mitigate that risk

3. Identifying the opportunity or lack of

4. Understanding your customer

5. Create detailed customer profiles/personas

5. Engage and get direct input

6. Document all research for go-or-no go analysis and decisions.

This class is perfect for: 

Anyone that is thinking about starting their own business or has already started down the path of starting their own business. This class will jumpstart your critical thinking about your business concept, the market for your concept and the likelihood of success or failure of that business concept.

What you'll need:

Internet access

Access to Google Docs

About Ken Vernon:

Hi, I'm Ken Vernon. I am a life-long small business entrepreneur. Over the past 30+ years I have started and managed over 15 new businesses. I have started businesses in multiple industries, but the last 4 were marketing agencies, giving me an unique understanding of a wide range of businesses and industries that have been clients over the years.

Now, I am sharing my real life experience with the hope that others can learn and gain value from my successes and failures as a small business owner.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ken Vernon

Life Lessons 4 Business

Teacher

Ken Vernon - Founder, Life Lessons 4 Business

I am a life-long small business entrepreneur.

Over the past 30+ years, I have launched and managed multiple businesses, from game rooms to a restaurant and live music venue to multiple agencies delivering online marketing initiatives for big brands that we all know. Cadillac, Spectrum Business, ATT, and others.

Comfortable slinging drinks behind the bar and just as comfortable presenting 7-figure campaigns to enterprise marketing executives. I'm comfortable with both because I have actually been there and done that.

And I want to share my experience to help you and your new business succeed.

If you are starting your own business or just thinking about starting your own business, follow m... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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Transcripts

1. Critical First Step Introduction: According to the Small Business Administration, the SBA, about 20% of new business startups fail in the first year. That's 1.5, don't make it past that first year. Now whether you're in the process of starting an online business or a brick-and-mortar business, or even developing a new product idea, there is a one-step that you can and must stake if you want to avoid being one of those new businesses that fail in that first year. This is the most important step that you can take to ensuring both short-term and long-term success for any new business online or otherwise, this step is simple. You just need to validate your new business idea. And the only way to truly validate your idea is to validate it with the actual people who would be most likely to need and most likely be willing to pay for your product or service. In this class, I'll show you step-by-step how to do just that. And I'm going to take it a step further to show you how to validate your new business idea. While at the same time you're building a foundation of customer knowledge that will help you capture, convert, and retain customers for your new business. Hi there, My name's Ken Vernon. I have started and managed more than 15 new businesses and the past 40 years. And I'm here to share the life lessons that I have learned as a small business entrepreneur. My goal is to help you use succeed with your new business by avoiding many of the landmines and issues I faced in building my businesses. Now some of my businesses generated multimillion dollar revenue streams, while some were actually complete failures. And one of my most painful and expensive failures wasn't online product or develop that failed as a result of me not putting in the time and effort invalidating my idea with the actual target market. I'll let my ego and input from those close to me, cloud mom judgment. My decision to not go through the research and validation efforts discussed in this class cost me a full year of time and a significant amount of investment capital and new better. And I still made this mistake. So I put this class together because I don't want you to make the same mistake that I did. Now, this class will help you either avoid a business failure or allow you to go forward with confidence of Success. Class, I'll go over six topics. Optimism Can Sabotage Your Startup. The primary Factor of failure. The three Key Questions that you must ask, how to Target and research, getting direct input and documenting all that input. If you actually execute the steps discussed in this class, you will develop the knowledge of your target market that will put you in a position to make the hard decision on whether you move forward with this idea. If your research doesn't indicate success for your new business, you can decide whether to step away from this idea completely or to make changes to the idea and try again, I have personally thought many of the battles and conquered many of the challenges that you will face as a small business entrepreneur. And I am committed to sharing all my experience to help you and your small business startups succeed. But I also want your input on whether or not this class was helpful and your thoughts on how I can improve the class to be more beneficial for small business entrepreneurs like yourself, please take a moment at, after you go through the class to provide a review with your input and then follow me here on Skillshare to be notified when I post more life lessons for business in the future. Now, let's get started. 2. Optimism Can Sabotage Your New Business: Welcome to the first in my Critical First Step For Starting a Business series, where I show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you risk your time and resources. If you're considering starting your own business, whether it's online or brick-and-mortar, there is one incredibly important step that you can and must take at the beginning of your journey. You need to validate your new business idea before you take the risk, before you risk your time and harder and money on that new business idea. The only way to truly validate your idea is to validate it with the actual people who would be most likely to need and most likely to be willing to pay for your product or service. My name is Ken Vernon and I am a life-long small business entrepreneur. In this, my Critical First Step For Starting a Business series, I will show you step-by-step how to validate that new business idea. If you actually execute the steps discussed in this class, you will develop a level of knowledge of your target market and an understanding if that market wants, needs and is willing to pay for what you were selling. With that information, you can decide whether to step away from this idea completely or make changes to the idea. Or if you get great positive feedback, you can go forward with confidence in your new business idea and you'll have solid market research to help with funding or with your investors. Doing this work also lays a foundation for customer centric businesses which are proven to be 60% more profitable. Now, first, I want to talk to you about your excitement about this new business idea you have, because we need to talk about that. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. So the number one reason people give for wanting to start a business is to be their own boss. And a lot of people express this desire to be their own boss, but most will actually never take that leap. But with someone with the desire to take control of their lab by starting their own business finally decides to take that leap. There is usually a tipping point or situation that drives them to go for it. Many times, the seed for this tipping point starts when they share their business idea with someone and the response they get back is, wow, this is a great idea. Well, the wannabe entrepreneur hears that and it immediately becomes part of the inner dialogue, supports their new business idea. They become optimistic that they could actually start their own business with this idea. This scenario is usually repeated with various friends, family, and coworkers, and every positive response to drive there optimism higher and higher. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs become overly optimistic and they let that optimism Cloud their judgment. They become convinced that they actually do have a great idea that just can't miss their optimism that there New Business can't fail, drive them to move forward without making the effort to do the market research and gather the data that is necessary to truly validate their new business idea. While optimism is generally a valuable trade routes manures, optimism without a certain level of pessimism can become a fatal flaw. A 2018 study conducted by Research at the London School of Economics found that over-optimistic folks are more likely to start ill-conceived businesses that are doomed to failure from the start. These failures begin when the entrepreneur basis their initial business decision on an overly optimistic view of their new business idea. This over-optimism is one of the motivating factors that drive people to go all in on their idea without taking the critical step of conducting a sufficient level of research with the actual target market for their new business. The friends, family, and coworkers that tell you you have a great idea, most likely do not fit the profile of actual customers and their input will always be bar, to ensure the success of any new business idea, it must be validated by individuals who are actually in the target market for the business. If you become overly confident and decide to not conduct a thorough market research initiative, you are gambling that your new business will succeed and the odds are not in your favor. You've just watched the first video in my Critical First Step For Starting a Business series where I'll show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you take the risk. If you have an idea for a new business, you can probably relate to the overoptimistic scenario that I presented. I hope you now understand how dangerous over optimism can be when you're on the verge of committing a significant amount of time and resources to that new business idea. Optimism is good, but a good entrepreneur will temper their optimism and take the time to dig deeper and actually validate their new business idea. Before they take that leap. A fail business can damage everything you've worked forward to this point in your life, both financially and personally. I want to help you avoid that failure. If you have any questions, comments, or issues you need help with, drop me an email and I'll get back to you. My email is ken at laughed lessons for business.com. In the next video, I will reveal the primary Factor that can determine success or failure of your new Startup 3. Primary Factor of Success or Failure: Welcome to lesson two and my lesson series, the critical first step or starting a business where I show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you take the risk. In this lesson, I introduce you to a gentleman by the name of Bill grows. He's the founder of idea lab. Bill conducted extensive research to determine the aspect of a start-up that was most influential in a startup success or failure. You need to pay attention here, this is a core business concept that can have the most significant impact on the success or failure of your new business. The number one factor that influences success or failure of a startup was identified in research conducted by Bill Gross, the founder of idea lab, and presented in a 2015 TED Talk. Idea LAB is a business incubator in California's started by Bill in 1995. Since then, I did a lab, has incubated over 150 companies. From those experiences. Bill wanted to determine what had the most influence on the success or failure of a new business. He looked at five different factors that he felt had the biggest effect on success or failure of a startup. These factors were the business concept and idea, the business operational model, the level of funding, the management team and tanning to market bills. Research included all of the Idea Lab companies plus an additional 100 startups or were not associated with idea lab. And in the end, his research concluded that timing to market was the most influential factor in determining the success or failure of a new business timing to market had more impact on the success or failure of a start-up than the concept itself, the management team, the amount of funding they had, or even their ability to execute the business day to day. Being successful based on timing to market means that when the startup launch, there was an accessible market made up of customers that had a need for that product or service and we're willing to pay for it. The understanding of the impact that timing to market can have on your new business drives home the fact that you do not control your customer, period, your customers, or lack of customers, they'll make the final decision on whether or not your new business succeeds or fails. No matter how hard you work, no matter how much you invest, you will not succeed unless you have customers who have a need for your product and are willing to pay for it and pay a price that includes the right amount of profit. That makes it even more imperative for you to understand your customers, to know your customers, you must understand their needs and if your product or service can address one of those needs. Now, in the next lesson of this critical first step or starting a business series, I'll lay out the three key questions that your market research must answer. If you have any questions, comments, or issues you need help with, just drop me an email and I'll get back to you. My email is kin at lapp lessons for business.com. That's life lessons, that number for business.com. Now, let's watch, listen three to see the three critical questions that you need to answer before starting any new business. 4. Three Key Questions: Hi there, I'm Ken Vernon and this is less than three and back critical First Step For Starting a Business series, where I show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you take the risk, the market research you undertake in order to validate your new business concept, must answer these three questions. Whatever you do, make sure you had these answers before you decide to take the leap. In order to determine if it is the right time to bring your product or service to the market, there are three vitally important questions that need to be answered. The answers to these three questions must be honest, unbiased, and backed by your market research. Question number one, is there an identifiable and accessible market that has a need for the product? Now that's a three-part question. Can you identify market? Can you access that market with your marketing and messaging? And do they have a need for the product? Question number two, or those who had the need willing to pay for it. And question number three, are they willing to pay a price that includes a profit? If you do the market research to answer these three questions, you can then project a level of either success or failure for your new business. Now let me repeat that. If you take the time to do the research to answer these three questions, you will have an understanding of the probability of success or failure of your new business before you take the risk. Now, if it looks like a no-go, you must keep in mind that a no-go decision, maybe the best decision you'll ever make, saving you time, money, and lots of pain and suffering. Nogot is the right decision. I would highly recommend that you accept it and move on. Now, if, on the other hand, you end up with positive responses to all three of these critical questions. You will now have the confidence to take the next step and commit to your new business idea. You just watched Lesson three of my critical First Step For Starting a new business series. Now, I've gotten some input on that class that says I shouldn't tell people to stop. I was told that potential entrepreneurs just simply don't want to hear that. But this is a critical point about starting a business that I have to convey to you. If you do not find an audience that needs your product or service, or an audience that is willing to pay. Just remember, a no-go decision may save you years of financial and personal stress and pain. Small business failure can be brutal and even more so on the personal app of the founders, I want you and your new business to be successful. So feel free to drop me an email with any questions, comments, or issues you need help with and I will get back to you. My email is ken at laughed lessons for business.com. That's lap lessons, the number for business.com. Now in the next lesson, I'll show you how to find the right target market for your new business, hasta luego town to bring your product or service? Excuse me. Pardon me. I know that I'm talking to you, but pardon me anyway. Okay. Here we in order to determine 5. Research and Target: Welcome to lesson four and my critical first step for starting a business series. In lesson three, we reviewed the three questions your market research must answer in order for you to have an understanding of the probability of success or failure of your new business concept. Now it's time to find your audience. You need to identify your target market or markets and get to work compiling this valuable customer research. Having a complete customer profile can be a very powerful tool in building your business success. Let's start by identifying that primary target market. It's imperative that you do this outside of your personal network of friends, family, or colleagues. As I discussed, most entrepreneurs and small business owners first convinced themselves or the value of their new idea. Then they proceed to convince those in their circle of friends and family that the idea has value. The positive feedback from friends and family then fuels unwarranted optimism in the new business idea, your friends, family, and business associates can easily become an echo chamber of false positive or false negative input. To determine the validity of your new business idea, you must identify and engage with individuals that you believe will benefit from RBA customer of your new startup. So the first step is to identify that primary target market. And you start that process by simply thinking and documenting what you think your primary customer would be. Use your knowledge and experience along with some basic research tool to help you identify a primary target market. Your new business, who is the person most likely to have a need for your product or service? What need do they have that your product or service will solve for them? Now your goal is to identify one or maybe more potential target markets. Then you will do the research that will give you the insight to start building a customer profile or persona of your ideal customer, your target market. You want to know as much as possible about them. For this research, there are multiple sources that you can utilize. Some of the primary ones are the US Census Bureau, which you can get a wide range of demographic data. You can also use social media audience data tools such as Facebook, audience creation tool, LinkedIn Campaign Manager. You can get psychographic data from sources such as Claritas. And if your market is to other businesses, search industry buyer data from any industry resource you can find. And as you do the market research, you should be able to determine the market with the most need for your product. Our actual level of need, what they're doing presently to address that need, and what might convince them to use your product or service. If you take the time to fully identify and document the demographics, the characteristics, the needs, behaviors, attitudes, and motivations of your ideal customer. You will develop a holistic view of that ideal customer. And you can now work to find where those customers are and engage directly with them to get input there in less than four. And my critical first step for starting a business series where I'll show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you risk your time and resources. Focused on the core concept here, know your customer. Remember, you cannot control your customer, but you can understand your customer. Dig as deep as you want, create sub-markets if you see them, the goal of all marketing is the right message to the right person at the right time. And you can do that if you know your customer. I want you and your new business to be successful. So feel free to drop me an email with any questions or comments or issues that you need help with, and I will get back to you. My email is kin at laughed lessons for business.com. That's live lessons, the number four, business.com. And until the next video, silhouette I go. One more thing about market research. I wanted to show you the three free market research resources that I use on a regular basis. So I've created a new class here on Skillshare called market research mastery. In this class, I show you step-by-step how to use these valuable and free resources for research data. So I encourage you to watch my market research mastery class once you've completed this one, 6. Get Direct Input: Hi there, I'm Ken Vernon and this is less than five and my series, the Critical First Step and starting a new business. And this is where the rubber meets the road. You've thought out your concept, you've identified the market that you believe has a need for your concept. You know who they are and you know where they are. It's time you go talk to them and engage with them, show them what you got, and ask them if they will buy it. If your research indicates that you're identified target market may have a need or interest in your product or service. And they're in a segment that should be able to pay for your product or service, then you need to engage directly with people who are representative of that market and get their response to your brand message, product, or service. Remember in general, people are happy to give their opinions. All you have to do really is just ask. So you'll want to develop a list of questions and topics that will provide you with the answers to the three vitally important questions we discussed in lesson three, you want to understand their deeds and if they think your product or service can fulfill that knee, if not, then what would fulfill that need? And are there changes that you could make to Europe concept that will make it a better solution for them, then you need to understand if they would pay for a solution for their need or for your actual product. And what do they think would be a fair price to pay for that product? In order to get Direct Input, you must document your new business idea or concept or product in a format that you can present to the individuals you want input from. This can be a simple PowerPoint presentation, or you can convert that PowerPoint presentation into a video for their input or simply printed out to show in low-tech environment. And if your idea is a product, the most optimal presentation would be a prototype. But keep in mind, the goal is to get initial input without significant investment or Risk. Be careful how much time and effort you put into your initial presentation ever concept, because it will change once you have an overview of your concept to present, get it in front of individuals in your target market for their response and input, your goals should be to get direct input from each individual. You want unvarnished Input, not influenced by what others say in a group setting, including social media. But social media can be a great low-cost or even free way to engage your target market for input, but always focus on getting direct individual input. Facebook is a great place to start. The first step would be defined Facebook groups that mirror your target market, join and participate in the conversations in the group, always trying to add value. And as you participate in these groups, you should be able to identify indirectly approach individuals to ask for their input on your new business idea. You can also create your own Facebook group and recruit those in your target market to participating, get input that way. Additionally, with a small investment, you could utilize Facebook ads to drive engagement with your target market, encouraging them to take a survey or answer a few poll questions. Other social media channels, such as Instagram or Twitter, can be utilized in a similar fashion to engage and get input. If your target market is other businesses, you can use LinkedIn and execute similar tactics, participate in grids and discussions in order to identify individuals for input. And if your business concept is a retail or a restaurant, the best thing for you to do is get out there with a clipboard and engage with customers have similar businesses. All you have to do is look professional. Engage politely, ask. As I said, most people are more than willing to share their opinions and experiences. That was less than five in my Critical First Step For Starting a Business series where I show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you risk your time and resources, the efforts outlined there are not easy and they can be time-consuming. But if you can get one-on-one with someone that's in your primary target market. That is the gold standard for your market research. The next and last video on my Critical First Step For Starting a Business series. I'll talk about the value of all of this pre-launch market research that you've conducted with individuals that fit your target market. And how important it is to document that research and how you can put that research to use today and every day that you are in business. As always, feel free to drop me an email with any questions or comments or issues that you need help with. And I'll get back to you. My email is ken at laughed lessons for business.com, be sure to watch less than sick, which is the final lesson in this critical First Step For Starting a Business series that's coming up next, hasta luego 7. Document All Input: This is the sixth and final lesson in my critical first step for starting a business series, where I'll show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you risk your time and resources. In the previous lessons, we've learned how to avoid the risk of being overoptimistic. We've identified and research our target market. And most importantly, we've engaged directly with individuals in that target market, gotten their input on the three critical questions that need to be answered in order for us to determine if our concept will succeed or fail. At this point, you need to make sure you've captured and documented everything that you've done to this point. Who your target market is, the need that you've established with that market, and what the market will be willing to pay for your product. This is all incredibly valuable information and must be documented and organize both for your own analysis and decision-making, but also to validate your concept for any funding efforts that you engage in. As you engage with individuals and new target market and gather input, it is imperative that you document everything in detail. Now, I've provided a Google Sheets template for capturing the input from individuals in your target market. Make a copy of this template and use it to log all input you get with your researching engagement efforts. Your goal is to understand the needs of your customers and if and how your product or service could address those needs. If the input is negative, you need to know what you can do to improve your product in a manner that could turn the customer's perception around to be positive about your product or service. And also, if you're utilizing the persona customer profile template provided to create a realistic representation of your target market. Be sure to update your customer profile with any additional information found when engaging in getting input directly from those individuals in your primary target market. In addition to your target market research, I recommend that you also take the time and make the effort to compile an overview of the market landscape that you intend to compete in, including any direct or related competition that you find. Who is or will be your competition. What are your competitors real or perceived differentiators? And how are they messaging to the target market that you're targeting as a best practice, I would recommend conducting your competitive research before you engage with individuals in your target market. This would allow you to include specific questions to help you determine how your competitors are perceived by your target market and what you could do to be seen as better and different. I've also provided a Google Sheets template for capturing competitive research data, the customer profiles or persona's you've created along with the detailed input that you've obtained through direct engagement with individuals in your target market will provide you with a clear view of the potential or lack of potential for your new business, remember, if your research indicates failure, do not hesitate to stop and halt all of your efforts immediately. Do not let your ego or false optimism cloud that decision. Avoiding the pain and loss of a business failure is invaluable if the input gathered in your research is positive, you can now move forward with confidence that you have a chance for success with your new business concept. Market research that indicates your business will succeed can also be used to support any efforts for funding or investments, or even partnership that you undertake as you move forward with your new business, I strongly encourage you to utilize your research of your customers to support and influence all of your business decision. With this document and research, you will have a foundation for a customer-centric business. And if you build on that foundation through ongoing customer engagement and input, you have the opportunity to build a successful, profitable, and long-lasting company. Thanks for watching the sixth and final lesson in my critical first step, we're starting a business series where I show you how to determine if your new business will succeed or fail before you risk your time and resources, building a successful business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. You can build your own job and career and you can even create a legacy for your family. But on the flip side, a small business failure can and will wreak havoc in your life, both financially and personally. Trust me, failure is not fun for anyone, but now you have a roadmap to help you develop an understanding of your target market and the potential or lack thereof for success with your new business. With that understanding, you'll be able to make an informed decision about the next steps for you on your entrepreneurial journey. If your concept is validated, you can move forward with competence. And if not, you can either make changes and try again, or make the wise choice to step away. I wish you the best of luck, whatever your decision is. Now, if you have any questions now or in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out and I'll do my best to help. The whole reason I'm creating these videos is so that you can be successful with your small business and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes and problems that I ran into throughout my career. Feel free to drop me an email with any questions, comments, or issues that you need help with, and I will get back to you. My email is kin and laughed lessons for business.com. That's can at laughed lessened the number for business.com. I really do want to help you and your new business succeed until the next time. I still love Lego 8. Let's Review: If you take the time to execute the tactics and strategies I just presented in this class, you will have identified customers most likely to need and purchase your product or service. You will have done the market research to have a good understanding of that customer's wants, needs and preferences. And documented that in a detailed persona or customer profile. You will have engaged with individuals that fit your customer profile for direct input on your product or service. And validated that there is a market with a need for your product. In a market that is willing to purchase your product at a price that includes a level of acceptable profit. With this knowledge and input, you are now equipped with a solid understanding of what your customer wants. You have input on how individuals in your target market perceive your product or service. With this information, you are now equipped to make an informed decision to either go forward with your plans to open this business or shut it down and go in a different direction. This is the critical decision that you must make. But armed with customer knowledge and input, you can determine the probability of success or failure of your new business. If the indications are that your new business will succeed, you can confidently move forward with launching your new business idea. And you'll have that solid foundation of customer knowledge and understanding that will help drive customer focus, product development, marketing, and messaging. Working from your customer's viewpoint will always give you the best chance for converting leads into customers creating the opportunity for survival of your new business 9. Next Steps: If you're ready to find out if your new business idea will succeed or fail, follow these seven steps and execute them using the information that I provided in the class, you'll develop a complete picture of your target market and their likelihood of buying your product. I'm providing you with access to a persona or customer profile template, Google Sheets template for use in capturing input from multiple individuals. If you do this work and gain this knowledge, it will be the critical first step in your path to launching a successful small business. The initial steps for this project, our first identify your target market, then research and creates specific customer persona's or customer profiles for the market or even sub markets. Then research the market landscape overall for and look for potential competitors. Develop your idea to a point where it can be presented and described others. Develop a price range for your product that you think would be appropriate. Then review your products and services with the individuals that fit those personas of your target market. And with that, you're going to get feedback and input that you use to either change, adjust, or improve your product or service and to make them more important decisions of moving forward with your new business or starting over with a new idea. Thanks for watching the lessons in this class. Please don't forget to provide your input on the class and then review section here on Skillshare. And be sure to follow me on Skillshare, to watch for additional classes, teaching laugh lessons for Business. I'm converting and I'll see you in the next class.