In the workshop for prospective young entrepreneurs that I run for nonprofit Believe In A Dream, we use a list of “rules” that we call “The Game”.
Rule 1 is “It won’t be perfect, but it can get better. Corollary: You have to start somewhere.”
Created for high school age entrepreneurs, but appropriate for every entrepreneur
I originally created it for high school age youth who face heavy imposter syndrome. Not only do some youth self impose feelings of “I don’t think that I could ever do that, although I’d like to”, but the stifling thoughts are reinforced by many adults who somehow feel it is their responsibility to tell students that they are “too young” for many things (sigh, but let’s leave that for another post). One of the first things young prospective entrepreneurs need is someone to believe in them, to let them know that they can “do it” when they doubt themselves, and to let them know that however they start will be OK.
But, prospective entrepreneurs of all ages can suffer from the same doubt. In startup accelerators I have run, I’ve seen 40% to 50% of founders either quit or get stuck in perpetual planning. And I’ve heard the same from other accelerator operators.
Perfection is your enemy
My (anecdotal) observation is that some potential founders get stymied because they want everything to be perfect before they launch.
The reasons why could be many. Fear of making a mistake is one. I live in the conservative Midwest, and - although it is changing - making a business mistake can have long term social repercussions. Being very risk averse is another. Sometimes potential founders simply don’t have funds to capitalize a new business the way they want on day one.
I tend to believe that these - and other similar reasons - can all be rolled up into a misunderstanding of how a startup differs from an existing business. All of these stymying reasons for not launching can be mitigated if the founder understands that a startup is a search for a sustainable business model - not a deployment of a perfect business plan drawn out of the ether (no pun intended, crypto fans).
Iterative improvement is your friend
When you are searching for a sustainable model, you are expected to start with something that will change. Your job is to try out your ideas, see what works (or doesn’t), adjust accordingly, and try again.
It is totally legitimate to start very small, testing ideas and building a community of followers (i.e. prospective customers) before you settle on a particular product or service.
It is totally legitimate to start selling something entirely different than what you hope to sell down the road - as long as it builds the community of potential customers for your eventual product.
It is totally fine to start a side gig on a shoestring when you really want to own a huge bricks and mortar business - as long as it builds the community of potential customers for your dream business.
It is totally legitimate to get partway through that engagement, discover a better product or market, and switch to it.
How planning differs from starting
The difference between planning and launching is engagement (or lack of engagement) with people in your target market. As long as you are sitting at your desk “planning” on paper or in your head, without engaging potential customers, you haven’t really started. Starting means getting into the market and engaging with it, being a part of it, learning from it, and adding to it.
Good news. You don’t have to be capitalized with multiple millions.
Start engaging potential customers. Ask them questions. Listen to them. In the words of startup guru Steve Blank, “Get out of the building.” You can hear Steve explain it in this video.