Over the last 20 years, I have founded five startups. Just like the law of averages, some were great successes and others total failures.
Along the way, I have also helped many other startups build, launch and grow. I continue to mentor founders through my involvement with incubators and accelerators. So I have seen my share of mistakes.
A lesson I tell all young entrepreneurs is shy away from wasting time, energy and resources trying to be perfect.
Don’t try to build the perfect business plan for the perfect business. You need to remain lean and nimble so you can pivot as you learn.
Conserve your precious early stage capital. Don’t hire the biggest name branding and PR firm to do your logo and brand package. I have never seen a startup keep its initial logo package for more than 18 months. And your brand is always in a state of refinement.
And most of all, don’t try to build the perfect website or retail store. Websites and stores need to be fluid. They need to be monitored continually and changed to enhance the user experience.
Get 80% of what you need to get your business up and running. Use your capital to get users. Users are going to tell you what is working and what needs to change in your business model. Wasting time trying to make things perfect is stopping you from being successful.
Why do I preach these things?
I have made these mistake and wasted a lot of money.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
For some reason, founders gravitate towards big names when looking for branding and PR. I have news for you. Just because they are the largest branding agency, doesn’t mean they will do the best job. It certainly does not ensure success.
Many of these agencies, at this level, exist in the big corporate world. They are out of touch. You are a startup. Find a young branding agency that is reflective of what you believe your core customer is going to be.
The traditional PR model is outdated and broken. Paying five figure monthly retainers is not the best use of funds. Find a young, aggressive group that understands how to navigate the online resource world.
In my career, I have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on these mistakes.
Until You Know It
It makes no difference whether you are building a store, a website or software, you will never be able to achieve perfection before you launch. Don’t even try.
You won’t know how the user will accept what you have built until you get the traffic. The only thing that is certain is that what you built will change quickly.
I have been guilty of this several times in the construction of both physical stores and websites. You research your customers, develop your branding and your messaging. You painstakingly develop your perfect website and spent tens of thousands of dollars on it. The traffic starts coming to your site, and within a week you find that major changes are needed. There are significant obstacles to your site that are limiting conversions. Now you need to spend tens of thousands more fixing it. The same can be said for retail stores.
I tell all the e-commerce entrepreneurs I work with to build 80% of what you think will work. Get the site up and drive traffic to it. Then you will see how to build the perfect site. Until you have real users coming to a real site, everything else is just a guess.
Perfect The Art Of Getting and Retaining Users
The only thing any business should try to perfect is a great user experience. There is nothing that matters more for a startup than getting users to try their product or service. It is more important than the economic model or any asset you have.
If you can get trial and develop retention through great user experiences, then you will be able to raise all of the capital your business will ever need.
In my business life, I can look back and pinpoint the wasted dollars trying to develop perfect businesses. You can never achieve perfection, so you should not try. It is only going to become a barrier to success.
Get your product up and running as fast as possible and let the user tell you what needs to change. You may think you know, but I will guarantee that you do not. Even the great Steve Jobs and his Apple product line was not perfect.
Just remember, perfection is in the eyes of the user. Continually work to perfect their experience.