It’s important to plan ahead in many facets of your life. If you want to go to a good college it’s important you start getting good grades as early as possible. Waiting until your senior year to start pulling A’s is a great way to end up at community college not Stanford. If you plan on a having a child it’s good idea to start saving money before he/she is 18. I think you get the point.
At the same time, doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing. You need to be able to identify what is killing your start-up and react quickly and effectively.
One way is to view your start-up as early man living somewhere on the Savannah. He’s heard these stories of the great body of water to the west and decides he will someday move near it to escape the oppressive heat and giant killer cats.
He begins to obsess about it. He constantly grunts about it to his wife and his children are starting to avoid him. He’s annoying at this point. He has started sitting on a rock during the day daydreaming about the large body of water and all the riches it holds…fish and shells and stuff.
He even starts drawing out plans, in the dirt with his favorite stick detailing their journey. One day while doing this a giant cat, not unlike the ones he was hoping to avoid by moving out of the Savannah sneaks up behind him and bites his head, really hard, killing him. His procrastination and long-term planning has killed him.
Identifying the serious risks to your survival in the short-term is much more important then thinking about how great things will be when you turn the corner. Even, planning for turning the corner is very dangerous if you neglect the dangers right in front, or behind you.
Another way to think about your start-up is a trauma victim and you are the triage nurse or doctor. Your start-up is always almost dying. It has some kind of terrible head wound, chest wound and something unnatural protruding from it’s leg. It also has a couple of hangnails and a bad haircut.
At this point it seems obvious you would begin working on the head and/or chest wounds, as they are the most life threatening in the short term. The bad hair-cut may make it hard for him to reproduce in the long-run, but right now he needs you to fix his brain.
The reason it’s obvious is because we all know the head is more important then our finger nails. You need to understand the biggest threats to your fledgling start-up and react quickly and correctly to remedy them. Leave the hangnails and bowl-cut to when your start-up is stabilized.
The hangnails are intriguing to work on as they are normally easy to ‘pick’ off and you feel good you accomplished something, while the brain injury is messy and complicated.
There are a lot of things that go on in an early stage start-up that can be put in the hangnail or heart attack buckets. Getting this correct is crucial to early stage viability, which is crucial for long-term viability.
Developers tend to do this with things like AB testing. Before they even know if they have something interesting they will begin split-testing landing pages. It’s fun and easy and you can tell people you are into AB testing and they will think you are smart. It’s a trap. At this point you should be doing everything you can to get people to your crappy, un-split-tested landing pages. All your energy should be put into getting people to your site and iterating on their advice.
You don’t need lawyers, or trademarks, or employees, or an office if you have no product or a product no one uses. Worrying about things like this is procrastination as it’s worst. It is worse then doing nothing, because it feels like you are doing something. You are…you are cutting your dying start-up’s hair whiles he’s flat-lining on your operating table.