Sidelines or In the Game? The Downside of Inaction

Think about any sport you have played. Now think about how you became good at that sport. Your path to becoming good probably included about 90% participation, playing, and 10% “other”, which might include reading rule books and watching YouTube videos.

Now think of starting a business. For certain, you need to spend time researching and thinking about what you are going to do. Planning is, for certain, very important, but over-planning-what I call analysis paralysis-will keep you in the idea stage and prevent you from actually launching your product or business.

analysis paralysis

We had three new businesses came into Kona Impact last week. What struck me about all of them was their eagerness to get in the game, to get their businesses launched as quickly as possible. All had wonderful ideas though from experience I could tell that at least one of them had some had not thought out some crucial parts of the business plan.

The business that was least developed, however, made enormous strides to solidify a plan after about 30 minutes of talking with us. We asked some questions and shared our understanding of the local market and some ways he could move forward. This entrepreneur listened, asked a lot of questions and was ready to take his business to the next stage.

Though he was eager to write a check to Kona Impact and get started, we sent him home with a bit of homework and set a meeting this week. We did this because we wanted him to iron out a few detail first. He was not ready, but very close to where he should be. He will, however, be marketing his new business by the end of the week.

I wonder about all the other entrepreneurs in Kona last week who spent a lot of time thinking and no time making concrete steps to launching their business. There must be hundreds of people thinking about getting in the game, watching from the sidelines.

There is a great concept in product development call the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea is to think about a product, makes a prototype, collect data, analyze and then use that information to refine the product. The key is getting it to key customers quickly and using that information to improve and redesign the product.

MVP is getting into the game. It’s not seeking perfections; instead, the goal is to see business as an iterative process. Of the five pillars of Kona Impact’s business in 2006, only two of them remain as part of our offerings in 2015. We have added four new product lines and services since then. We would never have known that a few our services in 2006 were not viable for the Kona market had we not gotten in the game. Nor would we have developed our new products and services by just thinking; it took the perspective we got from being in business to figure these things out.

I do not suggest that entrepreneurs chase every possibility and half-heartedly launch business after business. The key is to get a good idea and use what you learn from buyers (and people who don’t buy!) to reformulate and improve your product or service. Getting in the game is the only way test your ideas and see if your business is viable. If not, at least you’ll know, and you can move on with your life. If so, congratulations: you’re in business!

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