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A GAME DESIGNER’S THREE TIPS TO HELP YOU LAUNCH YOUR OWN BUSINESS, FROM CEO OF FIX HEALTH, MIKE TINNEY

CEO Mike Tinney embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. Before founding FIX Health, a company that develops the most engaging fitness challenges and interactive games to promote daily movement, Tinney was an avid tabletop gamer who set out to improve a popular role-playing game — Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf.

What started out as a ten-person prototype in his living room in 1992 would turn into Tinney’s calling card as a game designer. After climbing up the ranks to CEO of White Wolf, Tinney would exit to branch out on his own with FIX Health, which would eventually develop A Step Ahead, the incremental behavior change engine that turns your daily step count into an addictive run-from-bad-guys game.

“Talking about becoming a successful entrepreneur is a hobby topic of mine,” said Tinney, who shared some advice with us on what helped him pivot from a job in customer service to running his own fast-growing company at the forefront of tech and wellness.

TIP #1 – DON’T JUST TALK, WALK, BABY, WALK 

In Tinney’s experience, one of the worst mistakes a new entrepreneur can make is to spend too much time in the planning stage of launching their own business. Every new venture requires jumping into the big unknown, so it’s pivotal to have the courage to do so sooner than later instead of losing momentum.

“The average person does a really good job of talking themselves out of their ideas before they act on them,” said Tinney. “I would advise that they act on them. But be aware of your limitations. If you support your family, work it out to where you have some nights and weekends to experiment before you pull the trigger.”

Tinney maintains that an entrepreneur needs to adapt and not define themselves by their previous successes or failures, but that may require a change in behavior. As Tinney once advised one of his employees, “You can’t get to where you want to go by doing what you’ve always done.”  

TIP #2 – FAIL QUICKLY, AND LEARN FROM IT

According to Tinney, it’s better to prioritize getting “a positive initial market signal” over trying to perfect your product. Before you know if there is an appetite for what it offers future customers, working too hard to perfect it could be its downfall.

“The sooner and the cheaper you can figure out if it’s a good idea or a bad idea the better,” said Tinney. “It’s ‘just do it’ from Nike’s playbook.” 

It was by following this principle that FIX Health launched one of its most popular virtual step challenges. “The zombie challenge, we actually launched it just as a newsletter pre-order that we sent out to our mailing list,” said Tinney. “We hadn’t written a single line of code, but within a week we had sold out for these trials.”

This allowed Tinney’s team to ensure they had a product that would find an audience long before they spent resources bringing it to market.

TIP #3 – UNDERSTAND THE RULES OF YOUR OWN GAME

Tinney explains that, when designing a game, you have to start from the ground up, a ‘first principles’ way of thinking which also applies to starting your own business. 

“Ask yourself, what is the core behavior loop of the game? What are you trying to get people to do?” said Tinney. “And just because you have a good rule doesn’t mean you should automatically apply it to whatever new game or invention you are trying to bring to market.”

For example, as Tinney explained, in Marco Polo, one player calls out ‘Marco’ before the other replies ‘Polo,’ but you can’t just apply that same rule to Hide and Seek as it would defeat the whole purpose of the game.

“If a rule isn’t working the way you want it to work, don’t layer another rule on top of it,” Tinney added. “To correct it: break it back down to its core, and try to fix it.”

Simplicity is the hardest principle to follow in game design, which also applies to new enterprises. Initial game designs, like initial business proposals, can be “a lot more complex” than they ought to be. As Tinney maintains, starting from a simple premise, and building from there, is the key to success.

About Mike Tinney

Mike Tinney is the Founder and CEO of FIX Health, which powers A Step Ahead, a wellness app that leverages technology and the expertise of FIX Health’s team of health professionals to help individuals take control of their health and wellness. Under Tinney’s leadership, FIX Health has become a trusted partner for SMBs seeking to provide cost-efficient and fun ways for their teams to stay healthy. To join in the fun, please visit: https://astepaheadchallenge.com/services/