Do you think Karl Benz could have iterated the automobile, and released a half-driveable concept to the public? Do you think Apple could have iterated the iPhone, and released a smartphone that only sometimes works?
If you have one shot to create outsized success, an iterative process is not the way to go.
An iterative workflow is often touted as the way to success, and it’s definitely been the way many entrepreneurs have built solid companies, but it’s actually far less likely to succeed than the traditional way.
The traditional way?
1) coming up with a good idea
2) executing it well
Building a business is not the same as building software. You cannot iterate a restaurant in two-week sprints.
Sustaining business success through iteration is one thing, absolutely, but sprints are not the way to start most things from scratch.
I have worked with hundreds of small business founders over the past few years, and by this point I can sense the probability of success or failure within a few minutes of speaking to someone.
So many folks start a business without being all-in. They go half-way. In their mind, this is safe because they’re iterating. They’re just investing $5,000 and two months, so in their mind this makes sense. They’ll test the water and stay in, if it’s safe.
That’s fine, but over the years I have watched these folks do the same thing half a dozen times.
That $5k and two months has turned into $30,000 and a year.
It would have been better if they’d have just clenched their teeth, gripped on, and kicked ass with a single solid idea with great execution, funding, and follow-through. They should have had skin in the game.
I learned this the hard way. For many years, while freelancing, I half-heartedly started a dozen projects. I subscribed to the agile idea of trying a million things and seeing which one sticks. I threw spaghetti at the wall like crazy.
The problem is, if I didn’t see any traction the first few weeks, I would assume there was no market, or it was a bad idea, or it just wasn’t possible to see success in this field.
The real problem was that I did not execute well, persevere long enough, or have enough faith in the idea. Because of this, I prematurely abandoned many good ideas back in 2008, which would have been nice to still have around.
If we’d based our judgement of Discosloth’s future potential merely upon the first couple months of revenue, we would have shut down and pivoted far too soon.
It took months of full-time work to see traction.
Discosloth could not have been iterated.
It was all or nothing.