I am going to share a secret. I am not great at dealing with unknowns. I struggle with “what-ifs”, I’m relatively risk-averse, and hate hope as a strategy. Yet, I am an entrepreneur.
We all want our ducks to be in a row. But, as founders, that’s rarely an option. In fact, we often don’t even have ducks, just crazy roosters that you chase back and forth across the yard. If we are really lucky, as we build our team, we get a couple of cats to herd.
This reality is hard for many. This is especially true for those of us who come to entrepreneurship after a corporate career. In the corporate world, intuition and gut are replaced with analytics and consensus building. That does not translate well to entrepreneurship. It is a major transition and how we deal with it can be a big determinant of our future success.
Gut must replace spreadsheets and experiments must do the same for focus groups and syndicated data. It is not easy, but I will share a few things that I’ve learned along the way.
Embrace imperfect action
My business coach has preached this for years and for many of them, I resisted. Once I let go and followed his advice, my experience as a founder changed. Today, I am evangelical about the importance of taking imperfect action. Speed and nimbleness have proven far more important to my success and to the success of my clients than rigid planning or analysis.
Channel Doc from “Back to the Future”
Be a mad scientist and design rapid experiments. You will read about this frequently in the tech space. I am a big believer that it has an important role in CPG food and beverage as well. Craft market experiments around channel strategy, messaging, pricing, promotion, and more. Define success and then measure against that definition. Adjust, discard, and repeat as needed.
This goes hand in glove with the above (and it rhymes). Guardrails are vital to experimentation. They are what allows you to fail quickly while ensuring that failure is not catastrophic to your business. Guardrails include quantifying the total investment in the experiment, time, revenue and velocity expectations, and more.
Get some group therapy
Reach out to fellow founders, create an informal mastermind group. Consider a coach or advisor. Whatever the route, find people outside of your organization with whom you can talk. Even if they just listen, being able to articulate your fears and doubts is powerful. Being an entrepreneur can be isolating. Therefore, building a strong network is important.
My ducks aren’t in a row and I have a crazy rooster running around that wakes me up at all hours of the night. Guess what? I love every minute of it. It makes me more creative, nimble, and effective. Gut and intuition have become two of my best tools. Embrace imperfect action, channel your inner Doc, establish guardrails, and do some group therapy. Most importantly, be open and welcoming to the chaos that is entrepreneurship. By doing so, you’ll meet with greater success and have a lot more fun in its pursuit.