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Why perfection is bad, and done is good

We often strive for perfection in our businesses. But if we spend too much time ironing the wrinkles out of our ideas, no one will ever get to see them.

This past weekend I attended a Techstars StartUp weekend, held in the European Google Headquarters. We had 36 hours to transform a vague idea into a viable business: one that had customer validation, potential business partners, a functional demo, a finance plan and a business model. We were set up to fail from the beginning, and that was fine. The purpose wasn’t to walk away with a ready to go business: it was to make us aware of the fact that a lot more goes into planning a successful start-up than you might expect. And throughout the long slog, we had one message repeated to us again and again and again: “perfection is the enemy of good, and you don’t have time for it.”

On Friday night I pitched an idea to a room of potential co-conspirators, and by Sunday evening I was presenting a fleshed out, wireframed, researched business to a panel of investors and a room that seated 300. If my team and I had tried to make everything perfect, we’d no doubt still be there.

Done is better than perfect.

As a marketing master’s student, I’ve read my fair share of case studies. And I’ve found a common theme, one that’s only been cemented by my weekend experience. Businesses which spend too long ironing the wrinkles out of their ideas never get them off the ground. They spend so long building what they deem to be perfect in insolation, that when they launch they’re already convinced of their own success.

But that’s not how real life works. You can’t simply craft your idea of perfection alone in a corner and then expect everyone else to love it too.

To help break down exactly why, here are three of the key reasons a good product is better than a ‘perfect’ one.

1. Build it and they won’t just come.

If you’ve spent six months, or a year, or two years building the perfect product you’ll likely be convinced of its success when it launches. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it, it’s finally exactly the way you wanted, and as far as you’re concerned the hard part is done.

But if you think an awesome product is a valid reason not to market and advertise it, you’re wrong.

In the same way bands that become ‘overnight successes’ actually spend years working their way up through gigs and bars until they get heard by the right people, a business won’t become a hit just because it exists. No matter how talented you are, you still have to prove it to people!

Your perfect idea might be innovative and exceptional and perfect, but simply existing won’t get you heard.

Market, market, market. Your being convinced isn’t enough.

2. Perfection happens in a vacuum.

Your perfect product might not be what the customers actually want, and the customers are what will decide your success.

Let me bring back the music example: if you start playing to a small group of people with a busted guitar, you’ll likely build rapport with them. They might give you tips and advice as you go, and you might start learning what dance moves and songs they prefer.

They’ll feel like they have a genuine connection with you, as they’re watching you grow, and they might start telling their friends.

Eventually, you’ll be able to buy a better guitar, based on what your customers like, and play songs you know they’ll enjoy.

But if you turn up with a memorized setlist, convinced your show is already perfect, you might be entirely out of touch with what the audience wants. They don’t know you. Instead of watching you grow, and building a relationship with you, you’ve locked them out until the very last minute. And if you’re already sure of yourself, you’ll be less likely to take on their feedback, only building further walls between yourself and the people essential to your success.

Perfection happens in a vacuum. It doesn’t allow for engagement, it doesn’t allow for tailored solutions, and it’s blind to many of the problems your real life customers will have.

In the same way bands that are ‘overnight successes’ spend years working until they meet the right people, a business won’t become a hit just because it exists. No matter how talented you are, you still have to prove it!

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3. You’ll be broke by the time you’re live.

I’ve heard of businesses push back launch dates by years. But if you’ve got nothing to show to your customers, you’ve got no idea if you’re on the right track or not.

If your product works, and it does what it’s meant to, and there are no big issues or errors: launch it. Otherwise you run the risk of getting stuck in development limbo, too busy to do anything else but watch your money fizzle away. Once it’s launched your customers will tell you what they want, and it’s much easier to listen than pre-emptively guess.

Development takes time, but building a customer base takes even longer. And you don’t need a finished product to start building one: start laying down the foundations of your tribe as soon as you have an idea.

The transparency this Startup weekend forced upon us and our ideas was liberating: we were all there from the get-go for each idea in the room. And I left with a handful of phone numbers, a potential buyer, and a group of people who are interested in supporting my vision. All I had was a wireframe website, a business model, and a finance plan six people helped me build in less than 48 hours. It was by no means perfect. But it was good.

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Perfection is tempting, but it’s hardly ever what it seems. Customer feedback is the lifeblood of business, and by improving and innovating in a silo you might accidentally grow away from what customers are actually looking for. Being so sold on your idea that you become convinced everyone else will be too is not only detrimental to your success, but can destroy it entirely, and chances are you can’t finance months and months of development with no return anyway.

So what’s the take away?

Your idea is good enough. Your product is good enough. Your service is good enough. If it works, it’s good enough: so launch it on ShopFactory today. Start building connections and growing from feedback.

Why be perfect when you can be absolutely brilliant?

Lena Klein

Bring your store to life with ShopFactory.
ShopFactory is the easy way to create mobile friendly websites and online stores.


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