Founders and product leaders: Just do it… and plan to learn from it and accelerate your Startup!


(Borrowing from Nike and adding to it for startups)

A lot of entrepreneurs suffer from “decision fatigue”. And there are thousands of decisions involved in a startup for sure. if you’re doing something new and different, to make a break through innovation, by definition it’s new and no one can advise you because no one has done this before!

But don’t let that cause you to stall out, just do it and and plan to learn from it.

Let’s break this down…

Just do it is obvious. Though make sure you’ve got the tools in place to do things consistently and if it’s something like a product trial, then treat it like a A/B test, and measure everything you can for learning

Plan. Plan for the outcome you want. Just enough planning and no more because you’re really looking for a baseline or guidepost. Then allow for best and worst case. EG for a startup, ask the following question so you don’t get into analysis paralysis before you just do it. First ask “What is the worst that could happen”. If the answer is something that is manageable, eg you’ll spend 2% of your cash, then go ahead and just do it!. If by contrast the worst means you could put your business at total risk either financially or legally, then maybe you want to stop and break the action steps down into more manageable parts or tests (!).

Regardless don’t forget to ask the other question “What is the best that could happen?” and if the answer is something like “we could get a bump in adoption or beat our competition to the punch or even more specifically get a 3x return on your spend, then it’s probably an easy call. Just do it!

These are the kind of risk / reward decisions that I’ve made all my life (and define whether you’re ready to be an entrepreneur [see / link to “have you got what it takes”]). Some are genuinely uncomfortable such as times when I’ve had to sell a business or let go a person, but many have been life changing, such as when I’ve reached to invest in a new product that clearly meets an emerging need or hire a person not in my budget. [Possible examples for MJS to share – Symantec and the Financial Times, Radio and TV campaigns to launch Data Security, or go all in on Subscription for AntiVirus]

Whatever you do though, don’t stand still. Make the decision to do it and move on, and learn from it.

Somewhere between these risks and rewards you’ll find a path to “just do it” or even try to do it. And if you follow Startup Secrets then you’ll know I don’t believe in failure, only learning, so you’ll never regret doing it in the long run. Though the short term can be painful, as they say “if you’re going through hell, just keep going”. My version of that is if you’re starting something

the more painful it is to break through to the other side, the more likely it is you’ll have solved a problem others won’t pursue and you’ll have a natural moat around a real business to build.

Learning. Pay attention to the details as you “do” sometimes they really matter, eg in product design or UX experience, details can make the difference between your product being used or discarded, and you’ll learn so much by measuring this kind of feedback and asking the user the “what” and “why” kinds of questions. As an example look at Rahul Vohra and Superhuman as they pursued Product Market Fit.

Put this all together and learn to iterate fast. A startups’ only real advantage is speed. More on this in another Startup Secret, but for now just remember you’ll rarely have more resources than your established competitors so how fast you “Just do it and learn from it” is going to be your winning formula. Whatever the case, I hope the post causes you to gain confidence to accelerate your iterations and give you a competitive advantage.

Go for it and let me know how we can learn from what you learn so we can improve this post for other innovators and entrepreneurs!



Decision size and breaking it down, framework for that

But the really important ones, the “big rocks”, the ones that really make a difference are of course the ones to focus on and we need a framework for thinking about those and others to free us up to move forward.

Photographs as usual to visualize the point…

America, the ultimate startup. What was involved in “just doing it?!”

Can you imagine being the Pilgrims deciding to go on the Mayflower and making the decision to go and colonize a new country? What did it take? Why was Myles Standish chosen as the Captain? (Hint – he had military training) And why did they miss the mainland and end up on an island first, yet still find Plymouth? Was Plymouth or Jamestown where they intended to land? What did they learn from all this?

Recommended reading – Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Bug light at the entrance to Plymouth where the Mayflower landed. But the crew first landed on the island to the left, Clarke’s island, named after him as he stepped out there.
Looking out to the hill where the Mayflower Captain, Myles Standish eventually settled and where his monument now stands on Standish shore. Even after they arrived, I recently learned that at first they lived aboard the Mayflower to protect themselves, only disembarking and settling in what we now know as Duxbury when it was safe to do so.
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