When Apple released the new operating system for its iPhone earlier this month, some things went wrong. For a few hours, thousands of the first people who downloaded iOS10 had their iPhones “bricked”—or rendered useless. Apple’s stock price dropped. Whoops. Seems like a big mistake, right? Sure, but Apple did something right, something small business owners can learn from. Apple didn’t wait until they were absolutely perfect before they went to market. And they quickly released an update, and Apple stock climbed back up.
Believe it or not, many small business owners and entrepreneurs inadvertently try to be better than Apple. Before releasing a product or going to market with a new service, they delay and delay until they feel everything’s perfect. But working so long and hard to get everything “just right” often means you miss opportunities, lose income, and waste time and money “fixing” what might be the wrong things.
As you get ready to launch a new business, product, or project, remember the term “MVP”—No, it’s not the sports term meaning “most valuable player.” In business terms, “MVP” stands for “minimal viable product.” The idea is to go to market with a viable product (or service or business) but not a perfect one. Reach customers sooner, start generating income, and learn from your customers and clients what needs to be improved and revised.
For most new business and products, you don’t need everything “just right” before you pull the trigger. At some point, you simply have to get your product, your service, your website, your social media post, whatever—done.
Many things in your business don’t have to be perfect, such as:
- Your company name and logo. Novice entrepreneurs can tinker with this for months or years. Just get going. Make sure your chosen name can be trademarked (go to www.uspto.gov for a quick check) and whether a reasonable URL is available. But don’t fuss. Microsoft isn’t the most inspired name, and they did just fine.
- Your website. A website is a small business necessity you can’t afford to be without. Get one up fast and improve it and add features as you develop your business.
- Your location. Looking for the perfect space? Well, in retail that may matter a lot. But if you’re a “B2B”— business-to-business—company, you just need to open up your business while keeping costs down. Find a short lease if possible and get going.
- Your clients or customers. Perhaps you plan on targeting big customers who can bring in big bucks. But, typically, the bigger the customer, the longer the sales cycle. Meanwhile, get out there and make sales to smaller customers. You’ll help your cash flow and make your mistakes on less critical customers. If people other than your dream customer want to give you their money, let them.
- Your last 10 percent. If you aim for perfection, the last 10 percent of any project can cost you more money than the first 90 percent. Aim to meet your deadlines rather than aim for perfection. Of course, if your product doesn’t work, you’ve got to delay, but don’t waste time perfecting the superficial things that aren’t core to your product or service, like the font on your packaging. Stop. You can improve that later.
Having said all this, some aspects of your business you shouldn’t rush. Don’t wait for perfection, but you certainly don’t want to “settle” on the following areas just to get going:
- Hiring. Feel desperate to fill a position? Well, don’t settle on just any applicant. You may regret it later when you have to let them go and start the hiring process all over again. Be realistic in your expectations, but don’t just get a warm body.
- Financing. If you need money to launch your startup, it’s tempting to take it from the first person who shows up with a checkbook. You’re going to be tied to them for years. And many of them, especially investors, will have at least some control over your company.
- Partners. Taking on a business partner is like taking on a spouse. But it’s often easier to get a personal divorce than a business divorce. Be very careful when taking on a business partner.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016
This article originally ran in USA Today on September 21, 2016