Throw Caution to the Wind

By Jenny Vance, an  EO At-Large US Member and the President of LeadJen

At a recent entrepreneurship summit, a group of speakers were discussing the perfect time to launch a company. The consensus surprised me a little—start before you’re ready. Like many entrepreneurs, I tend to be a perfectionist. I talk ideas out with peers, gather feedback and then methodically move forward. Start before you’re ready? Not me!

The conversation did, however, get me thinking about my own entrepreneurial efforts. Some have been successful, others not so much. How would things have been different if I had jumped into entrepreneurship a little quicker? After mulling it over, I found four areas in business development that can benefit from a quick start:

  • Idea development: Waiting for product or service perfection wastes valuable time and money. Failing is scary so many entrepreneurs spend precious time and money perfecting a product or service before they launch it to the market. I’m no different. I delayed launching one company while focusing on creating the best user experience possible. In hindsight, I should have launched the idea and then let users guide my product development. Perhaps if I had spent half the time and money on my MVP (minimum viable product), my early adopters would have worked through challenges with me and provided helpful feedback.
  • Audiences: Entrepreneurs want everyone to love their idea, which can cause launch delays. Instead of trying to please everyone, I’ve learned it’s better to focus on a few great uses that can help you refine your idea and gain traction. There’s always the opportunity to expand the idea out to more users. In my experience, trying to appeal to a broad audience may end up watering down the user experience.
  • Investors: Even if you’re not yet looking for funding, it’s important to begin conversations early with the right investors, with the emphasis on “right.” When launching my idea, I followed the path of most entrepreneurs: I went to my network of investors, where I spent time with people who would never invest in my idea. Instead, I used my contacts to network and find the right investors who had a track record for investing in similar ideas to my own.
  • Vision: When talking with investors and other advisors, it’s easy to get sidetracked by following advice that’s not right for your idea. When meeting with advisors, ask yourself what you want to get out of the meeting, and stay true to your idea. I ended up following advice that caused me to abandon some major features I had planned for my product. These features would have driven value to the user. Look for commonality in the feedback, and if you hear the same advice 50% of the time or more, it might be worth making a change. When looking at today’s great entrepreneurial companies, it’s clear that they had the right idea hitting the right market at the right time. There’s a little luck involved in the success of every entrepreneur, of course, and luck is impossible to replicate. However, that’s all the more reason to get out there early and let market feedback be your guide.

When looking at today’s great entrepreneurial companies, it’s clear that they had the right idea hitting the right market at the right time. There’s a little luck involved in the success of every entrepreneur, of course, and luck is impossible to replicate. However, that’s all the more reason to get out there early and let market feedback be your guide.

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