Getting starting is the hardest part of an incredibly hard journey. I can’t stress this enough: almost everyone waits too long to launch. We’ve done it ourselves, but consider me a reformed perfectionist.
I’ve heard every excuse in the book from entrepreneurs, including things like:
- I’m waiting for my web developer to finish
- We’re coding the last set of features
- The design isn’t right
- I need to raise money to start
- I’m waiting until my kids go on summer vacation so I have more time
These are the ones I hear the most, but it’s obviously not an exhaustive list. If any of the variables in the aforementioned list of excuses was to vanish, there will always be more.
Successful entrepreneurs are prone to ill-fated life events just like the average person. They’re not superhuman or the luckiest people in the world. Their relatives pass away, their houses burn down, their kids come home from school, their websites get hacked, yada, yada, yada.
The difference between a wantrepreneur and an entrepreneur is they take these issues in-stride. They don’t get frustrated by problems and road bumps. They deal with problems like adults; they give the problems their due amount of attention, but then they’re back to work and building things. One of the ways they’re able to keep truckin’ through the mud is they haven’t over-complicated their offering.
This our list of the most common signs an entrepreneur is over-complicating their job and making their startup journey more difficult.
You’re Thinking in Large Batches
Typical Situation Number One: If you order 10,000 widgets from China instead of 200 from The (Kansas City) Crossroads District: individually you will save 40 cents per widget. Interesting. So how much longer will it take to get them? Two extra months you say. And how much more money will all this cost total? $75,000!
No wonder you feel you can’t move forward without an investor.
Typical Situation Number Two: I heard a founder pitch their vision for a web application that very well might change the world. By the time we get halfway through the wireframes, I realize not a single line of code has been written – yet the specs call for twenty-five different features. So I ask, “How long will it take to build all this?” They reply, “Probably around ten months.”
Let me start by saying the average software build tends to take twice as long as predicted — I have seen it happen every single time. So not only is ten months not acceptable, they really mean twenty months (at least).
Whether we’re talking code, inventory, or anything else that sacrifices time-to-market in exchange for size and depth: you should be thinking in small batch cycles. You need to get launched as soon as possible, as fast as possible, and build from there.
You have no idea if China is going to mess up your widgets and you’re stuck with a Maserati-priced pile of worthless widgets in your parent’s garage. You have no idea if all the features you’re coding into your web application will add any level of perceived benefit to the customer.
Smart entrepreneurs don’t act this way because they’ve been burned too many times with antics like this.
Order less inventory.
Have less product lines.
Build fewer features.
It’s more important to get data from real customers in a real marketplace as soon as possible than it is to keep betting your future on your fortune-telling abilities. You can go big later. For now, just start.
You Care Too Much About Profit Margins
Don’t get me wrong, I love profit margins as much as the next capitalist. But, if you put worrying about your profit margins on the large/scary list of things to do in the first year, you’re making a mistake.
Getting better-and-better margins is an iterative process and needs to be tested one variable at a time. The only way to truly test is to be open for business, in a real market. Invest in automation, economies of scale, supply chain efficiencies, or whatever else will make you more profit-per-transaction as you go — not from the start.
You Care Too Much About Design
Do customers care about your design? Yes.
Do they care more about your design than they care that you are solving their problems? No.
Considering your launch and early products are nothing but guesswork, let your customers tell you that you got it right before you make it pretty. I’ve quoted him before, I’m going to quote him now, and I’m going to quote him in the future. Reid Hoffman, the Founder of LinkedIn says:
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first iteration of your product, you waited too long to launch.”
You’re Trying to Solve Too Many Problems
Entrepreneurs get paid to solve problems. They get paid even more if they can solve those problems on a large scale to many people, sustainably and efficiently. The fastest route to being able to do just that is to attempt to solve one problem — not many. The ‘un-bundling of everything’ is a trend a decade in the making.
Customers gravitate towards businesses that excel at something specific versus being average at a handful of things. Figure out what your customer’s problem is. Build a single feature to solve that problem. Make that feature better and better over time. Own the market created by that single problem. Entrench yourself into a niche while you get to more sturdy ground and can branch out.
Just like Rome, an empire isn’t built all at once.
Before closing, I’d like to emphasize that I’m not saying I don’t want entrepreneurs to go big. In fact, I want them to create monster companies that solve many huge problems on an international scale.
What I’m actually saying is that the only way to accomplish such a feat is to start small while you tweak your business model and offering. Never again in your startup’s life will you be this nimble and flexible – so take advantage of it. The idea is to dial things in to perfect and smooth, before attempting to scale prematurely.