Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Aspiring Entrepreneurs Should Stop Planning and Start Doing

My good friend Adam Kalsey - Founder of many successful enterprises, including IMified (acquired last year by Voxeo) and SacStarts (Sacramento's Startup Network) - dishes out some refreshing advice for new entrepreneurs over at the SacStarts blog:
I talk to a great many erstwhile entrepreneurs that tell me all about their ideas and all the things that they’re going to do when they start their company. Or people who have started but aren’t really getting anything done because they can’t find the right co-founder or they need to design every last detail first, or they don’t have the marketing copy for their web site quite right yet.
Entrepreneurs do. We take an idea and a market and drive to make it happen. Figure out what’s standing in the way of you getting stuff done and just go through it. Once you’re actually building your company, a lot of those things that looked insurmountable turn out to be no problem at all.
These are two paragraphs that any aspiring entrepreneur should read over and over again - this is the essence of why so many wannabe companies never get off the ground.  And why so many wannabe entrepreneurs are forever waiting for the stars to align for them to go whole hog after their vision.
Here's an unfortunate fact of life: The stars will never align.  So if you're waiting around for a few things to "fall into place", you're wasting time.  Just get started and get after it.
As Adam mentions, most problems you're planning for right now will never come to fruition.  At least 95% of your planning time and energy is likely being wasted.
On the flip side, there are obstacles that you'll never anticipate until you start off on your journey.  That's OK - you'll deal with them as they come.
The important thing is to "fail fast" - if something is not working, stop doing it, and start doing more things that are working.
But - what if nothing is working at all?  That's OK too - actually it's completely normal, especially for a startup.  See, you don't have to be that far off for it to feel like nothing is lining up.
If I may, let me use Chrometa as an example.  One year ago at this time, we had very little working.  Our messaging and value proposition was not connecting with the market - people would go to our website, and wonder what the heck we (and our product) did.  Not good.
Our product itself was a little better.  It had evolved to the stage where trial and beta users would say "I can see where this is going."
So we kept tweaking everything - our focus, the product itself, our messaging, etc.  It can be a maddening process, quite honestly, because you can make a lot of incremental improvements, and have nothing to show for it.
"How's the startup going?" is a question people love to ask.  And it's a question a pre-revenue company usually hates to answer!  Because it's tough to say things are going well when you don't yet have a product that people will gladly pay for.
But eventually, it came together for us.  We defined who we were.  We kept honing the product (and continue to do so).  And eventually things started to click.
Moral of the story - inaction is the enemy of the entrepreneur.  Get moving today.  You'll figure out what works, what doesn't (that'll be a real long list initially), and most importantly, you'll be able to go from there and start building something of real value.