Small, entrepreneurial companies make the kind of agile and reflexive decisions that large companies can’t or won’t, and in fact, may fire managers for.
IncMind recently did just that, launching a new company landing page with little more than three days of work in preparation. On Monday, we had one branding strategy and image, and by Wednesday, we had another. This kind of strategic quick turnaround is unheard of in large companies, where similar rebranding efforts go through months of development, revision, and approvals before launch, but if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re likely not surprised.
How can entrepreneurs and small, start-up organizations make these kinds of kneejerk decisions? And why is it rational (and even preferable) for a small entrepreneurial company to act like this?
Continual Improvement Beats Perfection
Successful and experienced entrepreneurs understand the importance of continuous improvement over time.
Our IncMind online rebranding was born of necessity. We had been working with a marketing agency to do a full refresh of our marketing pages for some time. However, that project had been delayed beyond our limits, and we hadn’t found the right people to work with. We were getting feedback that our (one year old) marketing pages were confusing and unclear. People who visited our site couldn’t understand what we were doing as a company. So we decided enough was enough.
We knew that we couldn’t possibly make our website perfect in only two days, but we decided that wasn’t our goal. What we needed to do was simply make them better than they were.
We realized we could simplify our goal even further. Pages that were slightly rough around the edges would be acceptable so long as the people reading them had a slightly better idea of what IncMind was about.
We set our bar very low, and we did so intentionally. If we simply aimed to create something better than what we had before, we could be relatively certain of achieving it.
In a startup, everything is an experiment, including your marketing pages, and that’s essential to success.
Lack of Resources
Entrepreneurs generally don’t have the resources available to do everything that they may want to do with their company from the start. They are always short of money, and as a result, can’t hire the people needed to work for them. Because of this, they’re almost always short of time as well.
At IncMind, for instance, our CEO was also the best copywriter we had available to create copy for our website rebranding. He may also find himself handling new business development, reviewing year-end results from our bookkeeper to be sure they are up to date, issuing options which were promised to staff, meeting customers, and checking the latest iteration of the software to be sure it is bug free and ready to release. He may find himself performing every aspect of day-to-day operations and planning.
Our lack of resources, which required the CEO to double as copywriter, constrained the turnaround time for the project. As a result, the project had to be done in just a few days, because that’s all the time our CEO and founder could devote to it.
We found the time constraints liberating. With so little resources to devote to the project, there was no pressure to be perfect. We simply had to improve.
Urgency of Time
Entrepreneurship is an uncertain and risky experiment. Small companies go under quickly, and nothing is ever really certain beyond the short term. Larger businesses can engage in long-term planning, be cautious in their project timelines, and wait until everything is perfect, but entrepreneurs, by necessity, have to think short timelines. Projects have to be accelerated for the company to remain viable.
If you’re doing it right, it is almost certainly a three-month process to properly rewrite, design, and launch your new landing page. However, for young companies, time is of the essence, and they can’t afford to wait.
High Risk Tolerance
Of course, meeting ambitious deadlines that afford the company a fraction of the time commitment likely required to do a project well is a calculated risk. It may not reflect well on the company, there may be unforeseen complications, and things may not turn out as they should.
Entrepreneurs, by their very natures, have a high tolerance for risk. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be launching a new business.
This tolerance is a strength and a definite advantage that startups and entrepreneurs have over large, institutionalized companies. Entrepreneurs are adept at innovation largely because innovation is inherently risky, and they are happy to accept the risk.
They are able to make agile large-scale changes because there are no company norms, legal departments, and approval processes to battle against.
Crazy Works … for Now
At a certain point, entrepreneurs, and the startups they run, have no choice but to change tactics, to standardize, and to push towards perfection. It’s a necessary, if somewhat difficult to swallow, growing pain that any success startup can expect to experience as they expand. As the company expands, impulsive, agile decision-making of this nature is no longer viable. There is simply too much at stake.
That’s an advantage of the earliest stage. It’s exhilarating to be able to decide things, and to just do them. While it may seem crazy if you’re part of a large company that can afford caution, in an entrepreneurial one it isn’t crazy at all. It’s the smart choice. It matches your resources and urgency. It allows you to gradually improve, and learn as you go. And it matches your risk tolerance.
In fact, it matches your risk position, where doing nothing is often riskier than doing something, anything, no matter how crazy.