Barron Cuadro is the founder of Effortless Gent, where he helps men build confidence, land great jobs, and find long-term relationships by showing them how to look their best and feel great in the clothes they wear. In his spare time, Barron worked with his wife Kate to found their own fashion label, Fifth&Brannan to sell clothes and accessories they wished they could find from other brands.
At our recent mastermind retreat in San Diego, Barron sat down for his hot seat session to get the collective advice of the six other entrepreneurs in the room. To kick things off, he outlined the challenges he’s facing right now, as well as the major opportunities for him to grow the company.
Barron set a very specific revenue goal and then proceeded to tell us what he’s done so far… He’s launched a number of information products; Sells clothes in his Effortless Gent approved affiliate store; Does sponsored content partnerships with major fashion brands. But there’s something missing in his mind. There’s an opportunity being missed.
“What about high-end fashion consultations with entrepreneurs and celebrities?” we asked. “No, consultations get old after a little while,” he said.
“What about relaunching the fashion brand and growing it into a thriving business?” someone else added. “Growing a fashion brand takes a ton of behind the scenes work, and we’d really need more people on the team,” Barron shared from past experience.
The conversation went on like that for a few minutes, with Barron helping to set the boundaries for how he wants his business to grow.
Searching for Solutions Where There Were None
We had our brain teaser. We needed to help Barron build a strategy to hit his revenue goal, but without driving revenue in ways that will make him crazy. Game on.
We kept brainstorming about the best ways for the business to make money, and then making adjustments to our ideas so that Barron wouldn’t have to cross any of his boundaries. And then we landed on a great idea: what if Barron were to create a new online course to train guys who enjoy fashion to make a side income as men’s style consultants?
In the short-term, the people who buy the course will learn to use their sense of style to make a few hundred dollars a month. Because Barron is creating value for them as opposed to asking them to spend more money on the clothes he recommends, he can charge more.
But in the long term, that’s when things get really exciting. In the long-term, Barron could turn his newest course into a certification program for “Effortless Gent approved style consultants.” With Barron’s current customers already asking for style consultations, he could become the connector between the newly certified consultants and his readers looking to up their style game.
Voilà. We had a solution that would help Barron reach his revenue goals without doing it in a way that would make him hate his business. And it all came from the power of constraints.
Turning Constraints Into Inspiration
It turned out that constraints were the key to reaching the best hypothesis for how Barron might reach his goals in a way that excites him. If he hadn’t set the boundaries for what he wasn’t willing to do, we would never have found a solution that he liked. Instead, he would have walked away frustrated with the work in front of him (and how little we would have helped).
The same principle can apply to any problem you’re trying to solve at work. But in order to reach the best possible solution, you have to embrace constraints as the best possible source of inspiration.
I like to call these creative constraints, or the boundaries we set so that we can do our best work. Without boundaries, it can be incredibly easy to get distracted and end up with a whole bunch of crazy ideas and zero action items for how to move forward. Constraints are actually what allow us to do our best thinking.
Using Creative Constraints to Solve Big Problems at Work
You can use creative constraints in your next team meeting or brainstorming session to help come up with great opportunities. Here’s how:
- Start with a specific goal in mind – in Barron’s case, this was a revenue goal, but for you, you should know what your north star metric will be.
- Brainstorm the best ways to solve for the north star metric – if there were no constraints, what would be the fastest and easiest ways to reach your goal?
- Set creative constraints – as solutions come up that aren’t a good fit for your team’s interests, skills, or values, establish boundaries for the remainder of the brainstorming session. The best way to quickly set boundaries is to come up with the “craziest” ideas you and your team can think of.
- Make a short list of ideas that fit the constraints – once you have your constraints, you can go back into brainstorming mode and create a short list of the best ideas that fit within the boundaries you’ve set.
- Move forward with one or more of the best ideas – make a concrete decision about how you’re going to move forward and how you’ll know whether you’ve succeeded.
Creative constraints are the best way to solve problems that at first come across as frustrating, complicated, and discouraging. Next time you find yourself tackling a problem like that at work, try embracing the constraints as a tool to reach the best possible solution.