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By Neil Patel / Forbes.
Abraham Lincoln is believed to have said,
Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.
He probably wasn’t referring to startups, but he may very well have been.
Speed is essential for startups.
Why? Without speed, there is inevitable failure.
More than half a million business launch each month. Ninety percent of these businesses fail. No matter how well funded, money eventually runs out. In the rough-and-tumble world of startups, only those who hustle will succeed.
How do you achieve success-level speed? It’s not easy, but it’s possible by following these six principles.
1. Execute your plans immediately.
In other words, act on the decisions that you make. And act right away.
In the conference rooms and cubicle-filled caverns of the corporate world, decisions move at a glacial pace. Ideas trickle through a labyrinthine path of manager, board room, decision-maker, analyst, research, legal, marketing, reevaluation, and eventual cautious implementation.
Big companies can afford to make slow decisions.
But for startups, the opposite is true. Your business doesn’t have the runway to savor a decision for two weeks. You’ve got two minutes — max.
Once you decide on a course of action, take it. Don’t wait. Don’t rethink. Don’t hesitate. Just put your plan into action the moment you come up with the plan or reach a consensus in a meeting.
2. Hire, fire, and rehire in rapid succession.
Your business is only as strong as the people working in it. If you don’t have the right people on your “bus” — to borrow the famous analogy from Jim Collins — then make the changes fast.
Not everyone is cut out for startup world. How do you know who’s cut out for it and who’s not? Those who hustle are in a good position to last for the long term. Those who don’t hustle? Maybe they are best suited for other business environments.
If you don’t keep the march of talent in (and out) of your business, you’ll run out of workers, and then your business will run into the ground.
3. Try, fail, try again.
Startups are all about trying, failing, and trying again.
People tend to think that startups move in a straight line from launch to success, or from launch to failure.
In reality, there’s nothing straight about that line. Sometimes, the business is cruising towards success. Other times, it veers dangerously close to failure. At times, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere at all.
The path to success is paved by a series of small failures. To make your business viable, make as many small failures as possible.
Try something. If it doesn’t work, make a note of it, and try something else. And again. And again.
What kinds of things should you be trying? New digital marketing methods. A new customer segment. A fresh feature.
Will some of your tries fail? Of course, and that’s the whole point. More little failures will add up to eventual big successes.
The only failure that you should not tolerate is the failure of waiting too long.
4. Don’t spend too much time on research. Your business is the research.
One mistake I’ve seen startups make is spending too much time on market research.
To be clear, I’m a huge fan of research. I think it’s important, indispensable, and altogether foundational for a business’s eventual progress.
But it’s easy to waste so much time on market research that you lose time on production, marketing, and actual business.
That’s a sad mistake to make. By the time you’re done with research, you’ve run out of startup momentum, and your business is destined for the useless heap of startup wannabes.
Am I suggesting you don’t do market research? Absolutely not.
What I am saying is that you should do your market research faster than anyone else in the market. While most research takes nearly two months, you should have yours done in two days.
Rather than wait around for research results, operate your business as a real-time research entity. As I explained above, test and fail in such rapid succession that you achieve results while you research.
5. Just ship it.
One of the most powerful phrases in the startup world is just ship it.
“Just ship it” is an apt summary of what I’m emphasizing here — the need for speed in execution.
I’ll go ahead and issue my standard disclaimer: Don’t ship dangerous, harmful, or downright crappy products. Be reasonable.
But don’t wait around for perfection, either. Just ship it.
- Will your customers like it? Just ship it.
- Could you make some improvements to it? Just ship it.
- Should you add a feature or two? Just ship it.
- Is it priced right? Just ship it.
Particularly in the SaaS world, there is always the opportunity for improvement. Your product is an iterative process, constantly evolving into something better.
Every startup faces the pivot point — a time at which it must make such a radical departure from its original intent that it completely changes its identity.
Pivots must happen fast. During the pivot phase, a startup is at its greatest vulnerability. It is reworking its entire purpose and reason for existence.
If the pivot process lasts too long, the company fails.
There’s a challenging tension between making the right pivot and making a fast pivot. After all, since you are pivoting, you want it to be right. But doesn’t it take time to decide on the correct pivot?
It can take time, but it shouldn’t take too much time. Pivots should be rapid, unflinching, and executed with the don’t-look-behind speed that characterizes successful startups.
Startup speed is about startup survival.
If you lack speed, you will put yourself out of business.
In an ironic twist of fate, the companies that execute the fastest last the longest. Those that move slowly, quickly disappear.
Your viability as a company depends on your ability to execute faster than anyone else. Turn up the speed, and start moving.
What are some ways that your business pursues rapid execution?