How to Avoid a Perfect Failure: 4 Tips From a Serial Entrepreneur
“Don’t try to be too perfect. You see people sitting there with color chips for 50 shades of blue. Or they move their logo one-tenth of a centimeter left on the business cards. That’s where you can really get bogged down because you waste time on things that don’t matter. As long as it looks good and is presentable, get it out there. People will let you know right away if they like it or hate it, and you can make changes, but at least you’re getting results.” – James Shiner, Founder/CEO of Yelling Mule
Okay, we know what you’re thinking – “Don’t be perfect” is a piece of advice? And it is, when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner. Working for yourself means you’ve got to deliver – regularly. Getting your project out the door in a reasonable time frame is crucial to bringing in revenue, and bringing in revenue could mean the difference between a successful quarter and shutting your doors for good. But if you strive for perfection every time, you may never actually produce!
Imagine you’ve spent a year developing a new website for your company. This new site is a revenue generator, so the sooner you launch the sooner you’ll boost your bottom line. But there’s a problem: One feature isn’t working, and it’s going to take six months to fix it.
You decide to fix the issue and launch the site. After you launch, you find the feature wasn’t that important anyway – your customers don’t even use it! By insisting on what you thought was “perfection,” you lost out on six months of potential revenue.
It’s tempting to get caught up in endless revision cycles for an idea, product, or pitch – but when you’re working for yourself, speed and agility separate those who deliver from those who get left behind.
So what’s the answer? Once you’ve got it 80% of the way there, “ship” and deliver. Get it out the door. It’s the only way you’ll know if your product or pitch is worthwhile, and the only way to move forward.
James Shiner, founder and CEO of Yelling Mule, prides himself on “shipping.” A serial entrepreneur with 10 ventures under his belt, James took many chances before launching Yelling Mule, a boutique website design company that offers customers one-on-one personalized service and a commitment to getting projects done on time and on spec – something many web design companies surprisingly fail to do.
“Our biggest sales tool is referrals,” explains James. “We have a lot of clients that come to us from referrals that say they’ve been disappointed in the past, but we don’t take money from people and tell them it’s going to cost more or that we can’t finish the site. We pride ourselves on being reliable, honest, and talented. We have a 100% client retention rate.”
While most of his focus is on Yelling Mule these days, James has learned plenty of valuable lessons in his years as an entrepreneur.
Read on for three more tips from James for entrepreneurs and small business owners looking for a bit of inspirational and practical advice.
1. Set Attainable Goals…and Know When It’s Time to Call It Quits
When you work for yourself, it’s easy to get bogged down in anxiety about whether you’ll succeed. Setting attainable goals can help you stay on track. If you’re hitting targets, it’s a good sign you’re on the right path. But if you’re putting all your resources into reaching a goal you can’t meet, it may be time to call it quits. “If you want to be making money after six months and you’re not, you just have to let go, which is really hard to do,” says James. “I’ve seen a lot of people go completely bankrupt on a product that’s just not meant to be, and sometimes you just have to accept that fact. And you can try again.”
2. Don’t Try to Be Like Everyone Else
There’s often pressure to cash in on the latest trend and demonstrate that your company or brand is relevant and keeping up with the times. But sometimes following the newest, hottest thing just isn’t right for your business. If everyone is doing viral video but it doesn’t make sense for you, it’s okay to evaluate it and then move on. “Be yourself, and if you feel something’s right, you shouldn’t care what the industry is doing necessarily,” cautions James. “Some of the best companies were founded based on the fact that they were going completely against what everyone else was doing.”
3. Find a Reasonable Work-Life Balance
Being your own boss can be a blessing and a curse. It’s common to feel like you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from and that you need to work 24/7 just to make the next sale or sign the next deal. That said, it’s important to find a reasonable work-life balance and avoid getting into a rut, which can stop you from working to your fullest potential. How to achieve this? “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life,” says James. “Take a day off now and then to clear your mind. And focus on putting the right management and employees in place, so down the road, you can enjoy yourself.”
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