Somewhere along the line, I heard the quote 'Entrepreneurs jump from a cliff, and build the parachute on the way down.'
I really connected with that quote, because in case you hadn't noticed, a business is never done. And neither is a product, nor a software, nor a website. You can keep working at it, day in, day out, week in, week out and even month in and month out, but sooner or later you have to launch! It's a lot like a piece of art really. You can keep adding to it, brush stroke after brush stroke, but sooner or later you have to say 'That's it. That ladies and gentleman, is my offering to the world.'
IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
Something I'm really proud of about our company is that many of us are entrepreneurs ourselves. We don't just make websites and do SEO, PPC, social media for clients, or tell them how to market or grow their businesses. WE DO IT OURSELVES. Regularly. We make mistakes. We learn from them.
Having worked in the industry for longer than I'd care to mention, despite the fact that a lot of our team are entrepreneurs and have a lot of experience to offer in the process of launching and growing a business, sometimes clients just won't listen. They come along, and test and tweak, and test and tweak... never going live because it 'just isn't right yet'. But you know what? I see straight through this. What I reckon they're really saying is 'I'm terrified of going live! What if people don't like it? What if this makes me look bad?' So they continue nestling under the safe and cuddly guise of 'refining the product offering'.
YOU'VE GOT TO GET LEAN!
Being a successful entrepreneur to me, means getting comfortable with imperfection. There is after all 'good'. And then there is 'good enough'. Perfect my friend, simply does not exist.
During my time in Silicon Valley in 2013, there was plenty of talk about the Lean Startup methodology which is something you really should get familiar with if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. When we visited the good folks at CISCO in Silicon Valley, they were kind enough to give us a complimentary copy of Eric Ries fantastic book 'The Lean Startup' which is a great introduction to the topic. If you haven't read it, and you're serious about succeeding with your startup, your entrepreneurial endeavour, or whatever you want to call it, I suggest you do.
It was later in 2013 that I came home and became part of my first Startup Weekend event on the Gold Coast. In case you haven't heard of them, Startup Weekend is a global brand and movement, which has now hosted over 1200 events across around 500 cities throughout the world that have created over 8,000, Startups through 100,000 highly motivated entrepreneurs.
Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if start-up ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’sattendees have technical or design backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds.
Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts.
I'd recommend anyone thinking of creating a business attend one of these events to learn more about the LEAN method, ideally for a dull week and not just as a spectator on the Friday or Sunday night, though you'll still get some value out of attending either end of the event.
There is actually an upcoming Startup Weekend on the Sunshine Coast (where The Creative Collective has an office) happening 8-10 May (the above image was shot at last years event). You can find out about others happening in an area near you at www.startupweekend.org.
BACK TO CLIFF JUMPINGSo anyway, back to my story. The story about the entrepreneurs who throw themselves off cliffs and build the parachute on the way down. I've thrown myself off a few cliffs. And I've built a few parachutes. Some were quite rough landings. And some were quite smooth. In fact I'm still on some parachute rides with 3 businesses, and I've launched, flown and landed 2 businesses, selling them along the way. 1 business lost all it's air and just kind of, well, folded. That can happen too.
But here's the exciting part. I'm just getting a parachute ready to jump off a cliff again tomorrow night when I go live with version 3.0 of my other business awardshub.com. Seriously exciting stuff!
Version 1.0 was launched in 2011. And the business did ok. I've done some great projects and have some great clients. But I KNOW this business has nowhere near filled its potential. And to be honest I've been so busy running my two other businesses The Creative Collective & The Training Collective, awardshub.com has been at times like a neglected child. It's in the family, but the older 'children' have been getting oh so much more attention.
But here's the really candid thing (because if you've ever read my other blog posts you'll know that's my style. I tell things as they are - warts and all): Version 2.0 never even saw the light of day. It was built. Two developers had a crack at it. But I was never happy with it. I poured plenty of time and money into it. But it just wasn't a parachute I was happy jumping with, even if I am a mad parachute jumping entrepreneur from way back. So lesson number one, don't be afraid to call off the jump if your guts are telling you it's just not right. Don't do it. Dust yourself off and find another way to fly. Forget the money. Forget the time. If you believe in it, just do it again and do it right.
So tomorrow evening I will jump when I go live with version 3.0 of awardshub.com. And it's a big jump because even though I'm much happier with Version 3.0, it's most definitely not perfect. In fact I'm excited about its imperfections. In fact I CAN'T WAIT for my users to tell me EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH IT! Because that my friend, is the Lean Startup method. Don't try and guess every little thing that should be done to fix your site up. ASK the end users what they want. I've seen businesses spend a year developing an entire section of a website which in the end, the users just weren't interested in. Talk about wasting your time.
To solicit this much needed feedback, I'm offering something really valuable for free. You see one of the main functions of the site is the opportunity to search for business awards that you may be able to enter. We have a big (and growing) database of awards our system will query after you complete a form.
To date this has been a manual process trawling through over 600 awards so we've been charging $200. The new search function will save businesses of all descriptions hours of trawling across the internet and connect them quickly to business awards which will suit them, based on the criteria they provide on our online form.
I give you a free service, you give me some feedback. It's a win/win launch strategy. It's also, I'm predicting, a jolly good way to build a rather reasonable database. Something you might like to try yourself at home some time.
So do you want to give it a go? Help me user test? Be a part of the cliff/parachute experience?
Sign up to be notified when we go live right here: http://www.awardshub.com/newsletter.
I hope you find my blogs of entrepreneurial endeavours useful. Tell me what you think about all of this in the comments below. Jumped off any cliffs and built some parachutes on the way down lately? Or ever? Or still nestling under the safe and cosy guise of 'product testing'.