Perils Of Diving Off The Deep End

Looking Out The Deep End
Taking a dive without testing first is unnecessarily risky. From Flickr photostream of Ali Puckett.

You may be thinking about building something. Perhaps you have dreams of building a business with employees, square footage and equipment. Or you might see an opportunity in a market and want to automate it with software.

I have been a part of many ventures and can see the allure and draw for an entrepreneur to dive off the deep end. Perhaps the story playing in all of our heads entices us to push forward with grit, determination and blind faith. While romantic, it’s misleading and outdated.

In the old economy, many pursuits did require capital investments and a commitment to be all in. Then again, things were more stable. You could depend on a market behaving more predictably and staying unchanged for some time to allow your ideas to make an impact.

It is a different game today. Your new idea has to break through the attention barrier we have all put up. Furthermore, asking for any type of change from anyone has a lot of unknowns involved. What if we don’t want one more login? What if there are too many social media platforms? What if we think your offer is odd?

A better strategy is to commit to testing and learning. Play in the shallow end for a while. This mitigates the risk associated with the unknown in your entrepreneurial pursuit. Here’s what playing in the shallow end looks like:

  • Think minimum. What is the least expensive, easily built prototype you can create to test the concept you are thinking of? It has to avoid tainting the user experience to give you feedback on whether your idea is a good one. You need to get to the core without compromising accurate feedback.
  • Value learning over revenue. The goal is to test against unknowns. In the early stages act like an experimenter. Know what you are testing for. If users or potential customers have a valid concern then listen to ensure you understand the root issue.
  • Pivot. If reality doesn’t match your initial expectations and vision, then change. Make modifications and retest with your audience to see what you learn next. It is an iterative process.
  • Serve a small group. When you do have something working, refine it thoroughly with a small group. This may take some time, but it gives you opportunity to get candid feedback. I would even suggest charging a discount for the product or service you are offering to this small group in exchange for lower expectations and heavy engagement from you and your team.
  • Launch. When you have reduced the unknowns seek to launch on a small scale to continue testing. See how your systems perform. Look for more market feedback. When you are confident that all the biggest variables have been addressed, push your launch further.

This approach reduces risk and requires agility. You have to be able to change quickly when new information comes in. The benefit is that you are not guessing. You are honing in on the target and avoiding the classic mistakes of entrepreneurs that dive off of the deep end prematurely.

Smaller investments and risks with continual change matches our reality today. It is a strategy which allows you to examine what markets will do with your offering on a small scale and make tweaks accordingly.

How can this approach work in your world?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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