Sorry for the delayed absence guys (yes, I'm still alive). I've been working like a maniac on my latest startup (which is going to be released soon), but I'll be posting regularly again from now on.
With startups there's an endemic barrier to entry that can deter just about anyone, and it's important to fight it off. The most depressing (and yet natural) of them all is as follows:
Your idea seems perfect, but you eventually realize that nobody wants to buy it
Before you throw the idea/work in the trash compactor, try to refine it first. I could throw out a lot of different examples to illustrate how, but the easiest one is Play-Doh. If you're a cinefile, you'll note that this story was recently told in the movie 'How do you know' (which was a waste of time by the way).
The short version of Play-Doh: It was created as a wallpaper cleaner. It wasn't doing so hot. They realized that people were using it as pliable clay instead. So they marketed it as such, and it all worked out.
Interestingly, this cyclical repositioning/refining technique appears in almost every successful business to some degree.
There's an important book that most entrepreneurs I've met have all read called Founders At Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (You can get it by clicking here). The book details how so many businesses have had to shift their focus, and this is what ultimately made them successful.
One of the many examples in the book is PayPal. PayPal basically started as a method of transferring money between two wireless devices. This was their 'idea'. While the idea was cute, it wasn't especially profitable. Thus, the idea was refined, and it ended up taking the form of third party company that assists with transfers online. It's now a titan of the online world.
There are countless other examples in the book of companies that have followed the same cyclical repositioning path. The book is basically a collection of case studies from successful businesses.
This technique of:
- Release the product
- Collect feedback
- Refine (make changes)
is at the heart of being an entrepreneur. This is the framework you must follow. You need to fail in order to succeed. Here's a variation of the cycle, which is employed by the vast majority of entrepreneurs who fail:
- Release the product
- Ignore feedback
- Wait out the storm (do nothing)
- Try to advertise more
- Go down with the ship
The goal of your startup should be continuous refinement/improvement of the product. This technique has become so important, that there's actually a second book that is dedicated entirely to this concept. It's called Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a better business model (Get it by clicking here). The book is written by John Mullins, and Randy Komisar (who most know from Stanford University's Entrepreneurial Thought Leader podcasts). The book basically ascertains that your business is almost definitely going to fail in its early stages, and that's fine. In fact, that's natural. Only once you've failed can you start to refine the product and reposition it accordingly.
If you follow this type of framework, you'll find yourself much less stressed by early signs of failure in your business. If you go in with the mindset that you're going to need to adjust on the fly, you won't panic when the initial reaction to your business sucks. You'll automatically only worry when you need to; in this case, you only need to worry if you can't reposition the product for success. Only at this point should you be looking to dispose of the idea like it was last week's leftovers.
So don't be afraid of failing. In fact, embrace the need; The Need to Fail.
Just make sure you build off it and come back with a better product.
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