Warning: Paranoia, Perfection, & Procrastination (The 3 P's) Can Kill Your Startup
Creating a startup is one of bigger challenges you could ever have in business, with minefields and pitfalls everywhere. But there are three things would-be entrepreneurs need to avoid, at all costs, which can dramatically limit their potential success or could end up killing their startup.
They are paranoia, perfection, procrastination. Each one has its own insidious effect on your ability to succeed. A majority of entrepreneurs are guilty of, at least, embracing one of them, if not all, which can doom their startup from the get-go. Let’s consider each one, give you some of their symptoms, and then show you some ways you can either avoid them or not let them severely impact your startup results.
They are what I call the “3 P’s.”
ParanoiaThe symptoms of paranoia are rather straightforward. It’s the entrepreneur who believes that his/her idea or invention is so unique (or that they are so smart) that they have to be ultra-careful with whom they share even a demonstration. They feel vulnerable to people who might steal their idea or invention.
Non-disclosure/confidentiality agreements are the most important part of their business. Often, they believe that no one but them has or could have ever come up with such an idea or invention. Kind of like they invented “fire.”
Hey, everyone's known about fire for a while now.
How to counter or avoid paranoia: You want to protect your idea or invention? Apply for a patent, but also understand what that means. It doesn’t make you “bullet-proof,” like many entrepreneurs believe.
And trust me there are two guys in a garage, as we speak, who are not only executing on your “unique” idea but are making it better.
Your very best counter to offset paranoia is getting customers. Get a market presence, even leadership in a niche, if you can. That’s way harder for competitors to overcome than matching technology, and it beats always worrying about who’s stealing your concept.
PerfectionNobody ever wants to design, develop or deliver a product that has shortcomings. But every product, ever created, has them. Now you don’t want to be providing a product that has known errors or bugs, but that’s controllable. That’s a quality issue. There is, simply, no such thing as the “perfect product” – i.e., one without flaws or shortcomings.
Understand the difference. You can build a quality product that has shortcomings. You cannot make a perfect product. Well, let me re-phrase that. You probably could, with enough iterations, time and money. But by then you’d either be out of business or dead, or both!
How to counter or avoid perfection: No matter what your product is, have some formal design specification that you and your team will follow that includes the critical features and functions, resource requirements and a timeline for each early release of the product.
If you hold to the feature/function/timeline release schedule, it will prevent “feature creep” – or better yet “perfection creep.” Start with the minimum viable product (MVP) that you can get into customers’ hands; and then do so, as soon as possible.
Whether they pay, early on, is less important than the feedback they can provide. And then you will see the problems that matter to your customers with your product. But at the same time, they will tell you what’s important and what’s not, enabling you to do a better job adjusting your release schedule to meet their needs.
ProcrastinationThis is especially prevalent where the entrepreneur is also the chief developer and lacks the knowledge or experience that it takes to run the company. So what happens? It becomes not unlike the little kid at dinner eating around and avoiding the vegetables on his plate. He will delay as long as possible, but, eventually, Mom and Dad will make him eat them. Same thing happens with entrepreneurs but, unfortunately, there’s no Mom or Dad, and the things they delay or avoid are often critical business decisions that they just either don’t like doing or are uncomfortable with.
Tasks like tax filings, or HR decisions like benefits plans or hiring and firing employees. Sometimes, it’s duties and decisions around customer-facing functions like marketing, sales or customer support. This can, negatively, impact the company, turning away or turning off customers, which can drive a company out of business.
How to counter or avoid procrastination: You have two choices. You either get out of your comfort zone and perform the tasks and make the decisions (highly unlikely) or you bring in advisors (figurative “Mom and Dad” from above) who can help guide you in the short-term, while helping you create the processes and infrastructure for the long-term. The effect of this is two-fold. First, it would allow you to get a better understanding of why the tasks and decisions are important - in other words, why you need to “eat your veggies.” Second, it would allow you to grow by taking on the responsibility and moving out of your comfort zone. Word of caution –bring in some key people to “fill in the holes,” where you need help.
Creating a startup is tough enough. Don’t make it harder for yourself. Avoid each of the “3 P’s,” and, while that won’t guarantee success, your business will be better off!
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Have you had your bouts with any of the “3 P’s?” Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur.
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Photo by Laura Nicola licensed by creative commons, we added text to her image.