When you're planning a start up, every decision can feel like a huge mountain to climb and you can end up feeling like any little choice you make at the beginning will directly effect whether your venture is successful or not. This can be a reason why some start ups take years to get off the ground - when they could be out there, testing the waters.
Perfectionist or procrastinator?
Let me tell you, from nearly 20 years building websites - a website is never finished. There's always more to do, always more to add, and always security / tech enhancements to make as things more forward around you. So that's why I've come to think, whether it's the start of a new build project or the launch of one you've had built, sometimes you've just got to get on with it rather than keep waiting for the perfect time or for every little variable and decision to be "perfect".
Obviously, there can be really bad times to launch something - like an enterprise based in the real world at the beginning of 2020 lockdown, in which case you may decide to pivot, or wait. But often, so what if not everything is exactly how you ultimately want it - if it's not actually going to do detriment to you, get it out there! In the case of a website, if things aren't fully tested and are buggy and broken - then don't launch until it's ready; you really don't want to give your users a bad first impression of you. But if it's a case of you not being able to afford or perfect that "nice to have" feature just yet, but there are still other things your users can use seamlessly, what are you waiting for?
Sometimes you've just got to get on with things rather than try to over think every scenario, as if you do that, you can end up not getting anywhere. It's easy to say that you're being a perfectionist but you need to question yourself - are you actually just procrastinating?
It's a big deal to put a start up out there - it can make you feel vunerable as it's a little piece of you being shoved out in the big bad world and you're not sure what people are going to say about it, or you. Whether it's your life's work or your life's savings, I get it, it's important. You also are probably putting yourself under immense pressure to make it work and so again, you think just waiting for those extra little bits could make all the difference.
But what would the big boys do? What would the seasoned entreprenuers and investors do? They'd try to fail fast. Now, I didn't used to like that expression because I didn't want "fail" to even be in the equation. But I've come to realise they're very right. If something isn't going to work then it's better to know that sooner rather than later. Before you pump loads of money into it, or before it takes over too much of your life for too long. And if it does fail, maybe it'll only fail in part and you'll be able to change direction slightly and learn from the feedback you got and invest your budget and time into what you discover the market actually wants. Our collaboration tool Iszy.ai is designed to help markets collect content from their dispersed teams - but during lockdown we had people asking to use it for photography competitions and as a community tool, so we've added extra features to make all that possible. It hasn't actually "failed" at it's first purpose, but that's an example of how getting something out there can let you see what people do with it and let you learn from your audience how they actually want to use it and what they need from you.
We've got a couple of clients who are very successful entrepreneurs. But they have a lot of crazy ideas! Their teams know that they'll have 5 ideas and 4 of them will be wacky and not go anywhere and fail quickly. But their team go with it because every so often - 1 of those 5 perhaps - will be a strike of brilliance and will turn into something great. So try. Shoot for the moon. Do the crazy ideas. But do them without bankrupting yourself and turn them around quickly so they don't take over your life for a long time if they're not going to come to anything,
A while ago I blogged on 18a about MVPs - Minimum Viable Products with some fascinating case studies - and they're very important to keep in mind when you're looking to "fail fast" (if at all!). They mean you literally put out the minimum you need to test if you get a good result - just enough of a product to see if anyone likes it and is likely to pay for it. And you get those answers before you've spent too much on it.
Now, a MVP is difficult for a perfectionist -there's so much they need to force themselves to put on the back burner; so much they need to realise isn't essential. Yes, it'd be nice for that pop up to have more rounded corners or a different level of drop shadow - but will that make a difference to a user signing up, or using the tool again? Just right now, whilst you're trying to experiment and spend as little as possible?
When a Coming Soon page can be your friend
Earlier this year we launched this site - TalkingWeb - and with lockdown meaning I was juggling kids and home schooling and work I just couldn't get all the courses populated. But I knew there was enough that was ready that we launched anyway - and just made sure there was information on the site about the courses that are coming and allowed people to leave their email address if they want to be notified when they do launch. Coming Soon pages which never materialise and just speak of crazy ideas that were never really going to see the light of day are a waste of time, but if a Coming Soon page means you can move forward with your business - and, sometimes crucially, let you feel in yourself like you're moving forward (which is what I needed in a stagnant seeming lockdown year) - then they can be wonderful things.
Just try to use them to best effect and give a taster of what's to come, and, as I said above, let people leave their email address or have some way of being notified when that future thing comes to fruition. Then you're potentially collecting interested people's details while you juggle the rest of your life and when you're ready to launch that section you might hit the ground running with a list to market to.
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Moving forward in a difficult year
For some, 2020 has meant time to consider new projects and headspace in a slower world to figure out what they want to do - and actually given them time to do it. For others, me included, it's had it's slower moments but has also been a juggle - and with winter coming and school classes needing to close if students get ill, the next few months are going to be a juggle still. So - without undue pressure on yourself - don't procrastinate. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to think MVP. And be prepared to fail fast.