Moving Fast in the Right Direction
Understanding the things that can slow new businesses down
One of the most common problems I see with first time founders is that they don’t move fast enough to build their business and gain momentum. Now more than ever it’s vital to keep moving fast, as the pace of change is constantly accelerating and the competitive space is hotter than it has been in many years.
I don’t mean moving fast just for the sake of it, like a headless chicken. Rather, move fast to make progress in the right direction and not stand still. In this article I’m going to explain why moving fast is key if you want to build a successful business, and give you some actionable pointers to keep moving fast.
Why is it important?
Of course, you could just move slowly or at a steady pace. I mean, it’s your business and you started it to have a better working lifestyle and have more control over your own time. Well, the thing is, great businesses are not meant to be a side project or to be solely about making your day to day life better. They’re meant to solve real-world problems and make a difference, and everyone wants a piece of that action.
Information is disseminating now almost instantly around the world. That “hot idea” you have that’s never been done before…seven people are already working on it and maybe one of them started months ahead of you. Competitors are always on your back and are chasing you as we speak! You might not necessarily see them but if you don’t claim the space — they will.
If you want to attract the best talent to work with you, and maybe some investment from angels or Venture Capitalists, then nothing gets them more excited than real momentum.
As with most things, there is real opportunity-cost to consider when working out what speed to move at. Every day you’re working on the business is another day, another pay check you could have been earning elsewhere. The quicker you validate if you have something, the sooner you can make decisions about whether to take a step back or keep going. It’s far better to accept people don’t really want what you’re building after four to six weeks, rather than a year down the road when you’ve remortgaged the house. You’ll still have time and money to change direction or start again.
What stops you moving fast?
Apart from not appreciating why it’s so important, as mentioned above, there are a few elements that act as inhibitors:
- Energy Levels — dips can happen at any point and often come from a lack of motivation or perhaps other distractions in your life that are affecting your productivity. You need to understand your own energy level and how best to refresh it, which is a whole topic in itself. Some people take a short 20 minute nap every day to boost their afternoon productivity, whilst others take a few days every month to do something completely different like learning a new skill. Anything that doesn’t require work or checking email.
Forget what other people think and do the things that keep your energy level at it’s maximum capacity.
- Fear of Failure — if you just keep working on your business plan and ‘strategise’ then you never fail, right? You get to feel the pleasure of working on a startup and telling your friends you’re creating a new business, but a fear of failing means that you just can never push yourself to make sure it’s working. There’s always next week.
You’ll fail multiple times on things in your business but you need to get used to it, learn, and quickly adapt. If you can’t cope with that- stop and go home.
- Wrong Team — co-founders and management teams reinforce and motivate each other. It is a real support network. Nothing beats the feeling of coming together as whole team to solve a pressing issue in the business- you’re not alone anymore. When you’re a solo founder, or the people you’re working aren’t exuding positivity, then something is wrong and you need to change it.
- Wrong Environment — where and how you work is almost as important as who you’re working with. Are you trying to fit time in while working for someone else and use an hour of your lunchtime from your cubicle? Perhaps you’re finding it hard to concentrate with noise around you. You need to find a place where you are most productive and go there often. A coffee shop, co-working space, sitting in a park under a tree… it doesn’t matter.
We’re all different and thrive in different environments.
- Lack of Focus — This often comes from not setting some clear long, medium, and short term objectives. Imagine you’re writing a book and every stage of your startup is like a new chapter. You might be on chapter 4 (“you have something people want and pay for and you need to scale up”) or chapter 1 (“you need to prove customers have this problem and your proposed solution looks promising”). Start at the end of that chapter and highlight what you need to achieve to get there, and then work backwards. “6 month goal: I want my business to prove it is solving a real problem and will measure it by whether I can convince investors to fund us” -> “3 month goal: Get x people using my product and generate y revenue”.
- “but if we move too fast we’ll make mistakes…” — ah yes, that old chestnut. Yes, you will! You’ll make quick decisions that might turn out to be wrong, or you’ll miss out a key feature in your plan. But you’ll go back, fix it, and move forward again. It’s 5x better than taking too long to make decisions or to make none at all.
The world has changed and nothing stands still. Appreciating why you should move fast in building your business and achieving things every week is the first step, followed by overcoming your objections to doing so.
I’ll leave you with a thought that has always kept me going at pace when I’ve decided to build something. Very simply, for me, it’s the fear that someone else will do what I’m doing and be successful with it instead of me. Nothing would bother me more than seeing that happen and think “that could have been me…”.
Find your motivation for moving fast… quickly…. what are you waiting for?
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