Fear of Launching - How Startups and Product Launches Fail
In our business we generally work with two different types of clients: 1) Startups and 2) businesses that have maybe been around a while, but are stagnant and need a little kick start to get over a hump and move the needle a bit.
I personally really enjoy working with both groups, and both have their pros and cons. Startups are usually like a blank canvas and really let us stretch our creative wings. But existing businesses have generally had the same branding or marketing for a while and are eager for something fresh. With a few creative ideas it’s easy to look good when we pitch them in the strategy meeting.
On the con side, startups are pretty tight with cash and are much more conservative with experimenting with new approaches. On the other side of that coin, established businesses have a bunch of fingers in the decision-making pie and ideas can sometimes die by committee.
There is one con that I’d like to highlight that can come from either group, but is usually more common with startups. That is what we call “fear of launching.”
Fear of Launching
When you have an idea for a new business or product the excitement that comes along with it is almost palpable. It is easy to get giddy over the prospects of launching something that you not only thought of, but could impact the world in a positive way.
Along with excitement, however, comes its evil twin: fear.
Starting any new venture is scary. There’s no guarantee of success and a high probability of failure. Since most of us associate failure with embarrassment, there’s a good chance you could end up looking like an idiot to those around you. (Paradoxically, the hard truth is that most people are too deep in their own problems to give a shit about your failed business idea so you really are worried over nothing, but I digress.)
Sometimes then, this fear creates a unique phenomenon where the entrepreneur tinkers and tinkers and tinkers with the product, making sure it is absolutely perfect before launching the thing.
My hunch is that in a lot of cases this is directly tied to fear of failure. After all, if you never launch your product or business you can always say, “Well we haven’t failed yet because we haven’t even gone to market yet.” This is a nice, easy way to justify not selling anything.
The trouble is, you never actually get around to launching because the product is never “good enough” to finally take to market. This paralysis by analysis prohibits you from creating a minimum viable product to test. Any entrepreneur worth her salt will tell you that the only way to find success is to fail and fail fast, refining as you go.
By all accounts it will be messy, non-linear, and you will piss customers off along the way with a mediocre product and spotty customer service, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. When in doubt, go to market.
Although you want to put your best foot forward, you have to also realize when good enough is good enough. I’ve always maintained that what most startups need isn’t a new CPA or VP of Operations, but a crochety, grizzled old veteran stomping around the office or warehouse growling, “When are we going to ship this damn thing?”
You’ll be far better served by getting over your irrational fear of launching and just taking what you have to market, learning from what the initial customers tell you, refining it, and doing it all over again.
So, stop tinkering and start selling.