The 'Three-Legged Stool' Theory of Building a Business


Have you ever built a stool? The reality for most of us is no. Long gone are the days of mandatory shop class in high school. So, do me a favor, and visualize this mentally. You're building a stool. You've got one leg on, you've just fiddled the second one in, and you're preparing to add the last leg. Seems simple enough, right? Now add the fact that you're doing this on a train going 100 miles an hour. Not so easy anymore. And, frankly, a little insane.

This is the analogy Jason Johnson, founder of August and one of our Founder Genius, used to describe trying to build a business without slowing down to properly fit the three essential legs: team, product/service and distribution.

"Team, of course, you know good people that like to problem solve and can work through, you know, changes and difficulties," Johnson said. "Obviously product. You need something that is, I'd say either improving on something, making something better, or it's making something cheaper."

But Johnson noted, most people think they’re good to go and take off running without thinking about distribution.

“But it’s one you have to think about,” Johnson said. “To build a product, to build a team and then later worry about ‘how are we going to get this to market?’ is a bit of a mistake.”

Trying to fit a distribution model to your already crafted stool of people and a product or service will leave you teetering without much room for adjustments or iterations, desperately trying to make all three things work together—whether they want to or not. Instead, these three pieces should be considered together from the beginning. Properly sketched, measured and cut to work in the same stool of your business.

“And the earlier you do that, the earlier you think about ‘what is the business model for this, and how is it going to generate revenue?’ I think your chances for success are going to be improved,” Johnson said. “Because then you’ll develop the team and the product to fit with the distribution model.” 

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  • Amanda Schnieders