Small bets early in your project force you to do what is important first: prove your thesis, talk to customers, and get paid for your work upfront
Ask a first-time entrepreneur what is important pre-launch and they will probably say something like:
- Website and logo
- Polished product
- Robust tech infrastructure
- Staff / Assistant / Office
- Storefront (if offering a physical product)
What they don’t say is:
- Talking to customers
- Getting the first paid deal
- Rough draft prototype (sometimes called Minimal Viable Product)
What Experienced Entrepreneurs Wish You Knew: The Worst-Kept Secret
There is a terribly-kept secret within the entrepreneurial world. Unfortunately, even though it is almost public knowledge, very few first-time entrepreneurs apply it.
Instead, they make the exact same mistake thousands of us have made.
Akin to following one another off the cliff while ignoring the billboards, guardrails, and warning signs and lights put in place by others who have gone before us.
I’ve burned a lot of money and wasted a lot of time trying to build the perfect tool or system before launching a product. I was convinced I had to have the perfect domain, website, logo, copy, product, onboarding process, payment processing, and self-serve options – basically, everything needed to scale to a million active users tomorrow. Even though I had 0 today.
I can appreciate the desire to have a polished presence. I don’t like putting out half-baked ideas or publishing something that isn’t ready. But the truth is, the internet is a big place. And the chances of opening your doors tomorrow to a million new customers ready to give you money are pretty slim.
I’ve had countless “killer” ideas for apps, products, and services. Some (most) died before even making it out of the development stage, some earned back what I’d invested, and some paid my mortgage.
The ones that worked better are the ones that launched before they were ready. They launched when they were held together with chewing gum, a paperclip, and used string. They launched after I’d done the process manually enough to know what I could automate. They launched after I talked to enough end-users to understand what they expected, how they would use it, and what they would pay for it.
Rather than building something and hoping it would fly, I tested the minimum viable product – the bare bones of the idea. Just enough to see if it would work.
Because I was tired of losing time and money (and passion). I was tired of false starts, paying for a pile of code that would never be used, and the opportunity cost of not capitalizing on the flow of business.
What do I mean by opportunity costs?
What are opportunity costs and how do they factor into this?
While I was focused on building something nobody wanted, I was not getting new business. I was not attracting new clients, staying up-to-date in the industry, and connecting with others to build my network. I was in a silo, oblivious to everything going on around me.
What I should have done – and what other successful entrepreneurs have done – is stayed connected.
- Stayed connected by talking to those I wished to serve
- Stayed connected with those influential in the industry I was targeting
- Stayed connected with how the industry was adjusting
I often encourage entrepreneurs and passionate people to Get Started! Publish something, ask questions, talk to potential customers, put yourself out there.
You don’t need the perfect website and logo to launch. Instead, start with a social media profile. Answer questions, build a community, and connect there.
You don’t need a robust email marketing system with lead capture and lead magnet. Instead, start with Substack. Write and publish your newsletter there. See if people subscribe. If your message isn’t resonating, pivot.
You don’t need to invest in a storefront, equipment, staff, decor, or inventory. Instead, start with a pop-up location. Connect with your neighbors and community there.
You don’t need a fully developed app. Instead, start with a no-code prototype of your idea. Connect with those who would benefit from it, listen to their feedback, and learn how to make it better.
You don’t need to invest hundreds of hours creating an online course to launch. Instead, create a community of your ideal customers and offer 1:1 or 1:10 coaching sessions. The content uncovered there will build your course for you.
The point is: launching small is not only strategic but smart. Getting started is far more important than starting perfectly.
If I had known all this 20 years ago when I started, my business would be in a different place. Now, I consider, “what is the smallest amount of time and money I can invest to test this idea?”
At any time, I can walk away with only a small amount invested. No more huge losses. That, my friend, is the key to building a sustainable, life-changing business.
All the best,
I’m so thankful you’re here. If you are a new reader, try checking out this popular post that was previously shared with other passionate people like you: