A Critique of Small Businesses
As a part of Living in the 21st Century I wanted to take a closer look at small businesses. I’m not talking about freelancers and independent contractors right now, I’m talking about your friendly neighborhood “startup.” The type of business that brings together a small group of clever people to tackle some hard problem, and runs into all the issues inherent in that task. The following are a few truths I’ve learned while working with them.
1. You have big dreams, which is a very good thing.
2. You want those dreams to come true all at the same time, which is a very bad thing.
3. You need to be more willing to take chances, take risks and execute on plans.
4. Moreover, you need to be a lot more willing to show yourself off to the public, even when you know that your product still needs work.
5. In fact, just stop inventing reasons not to launch, there is nothing new under the Sun and all of your problems have been seen a thousand times before.
6. Narrow your scope, everything can be done but not everything can be done at the same time.
7. Set priorities and not just the fake ones that last until the end of the “product road mapping” meeting.
8. Stick to your guns, your pristine list of priorities has no value if every new whim manages to wiggle its way to the top.
9. Pick a market, trying to be everything for everyone is roughly equivalent to be nothing for no one.
10. Pick something to do really well, whether it’s service or features or a funny cartoon mascot of a Badger, find one thing that you can be good at and devote your energy to being really good at it.
11. Ignore most of the rest, once you know what you do well do that and let the rest fall into place in its own time.
12. Make better use of your money, most of your problems early on will involve it.
13. Making better use of your money often means pretending that you have less of it, especially when things are going well.
14. More specifically, save when you’re ahead so that you can spend when you’re behind and understand that almost all markets work in cycles and that the most debilitating problem you can face is to be under-prepared for when that cycle turns.
15. You have no idea what your customer really wants, the faster you understand this fact the better off you’ll be.
16. Knowing this, be willing to show your customers your product and see what they do with it, then get over your ego and change your offering to meet your customer’s needs.
17. Meet less and for better reasons — there is almost nothing that a 6 hour long meeting can accomplish that could not happen in 1/3rd that time if everyone stayed on track.
18. Talk more and for less formal reasons — continuous dialogue between members of the team is what will grow the business, don’t be afraid to say your ideas out loud, write them down and prioritize them as appropriate.
19. Write everything down, a useless notation today could be a key insight tomorrow.
20. Stop reinventing the wheel, the wheel exists for a reason and that reason is that it often works.
21. Focus on making one small change at a time, the first step to changing the world is changing the light bulb.
22. Realize that all evolution involves these tiny steps and become more comfortable with the boring, everyday improvements that lead to the major shifts.
23. Be less concerned with everyone elses definition of success, keeping up with the Joneses is not a growth strategy.
24. Be more concerned with accomplishing goals, and with setting goals that you have the talent and tenacity to accomplish.
25. Understand when a goal just can’t be accomplished right now, and be willing to set it aside for the greater good.
26. Be willing to say no to otherwise good ideas that just don’t fit into the way that your business operates.
27. Realize that the business you have in five years will be entirely different than that the business you have today, take joy in that fact and work everyday to stay alive long enough to see what it looks like. (Images)