The Most Common Pitfall When Starting Up a Business

I remember the first time I got involved in an international deal. In our company, we talked for a few months about how to deal with the details of the project. We had a lot of concerns and we thought really hard to find solutions to those concerns.

Finally, the day of our presentation came. We made our presentation, but the deal didn’t get closed. Needless to say, all of our thinking, worrying, and analyzing was for nothing. This is a common theme across new businesses. That’s why I want to discuss this issue today.

Business Honeymoon

There’s a pitfall that most of us fail to when we first start a project or business. That pitfall is to overanalyze and overengineer. In our first project or business, we get excited. As a result, our minds get into the overdrive mode.

We come up with a lot of ideas. We become perfectionists. We want to develop a product or system that would address all the possible situations in the future. We spend months, if not years, to perfect our product before launching it. When we finally launch, we come across several obstacles.

Then the Reality Hits Us

The first common obstacle is the lack of demand. It doesn’t occur to us that we have to check the demand first, before actually spending time and money on developing a product. We don’t check the demand, because of several reasons.

First, we want to keep our project as a secret, because we don’t want anyone else to steal our idea. Second, we don’t know how to check the demand before actually developing and delivering the product.

Overcomplicating Everything

If we have the demand, we realize that we have implemented so many features in our product that it is much more complicated than a regular person can use.

Most of the features in our product or website aren’t used by our customers or visitors. Those features are actually distracting the users and pushing them away.

Those useless features not only distract the users, but they also make it hard to maintain the product. So, we make the jobs of ourselves and our engineering teams harder as well.

Long Development Spans

We take a lot of time before launching our product or business, because we want to be proud with our product or business. We think that the more features it has the better our product will be. We need to replace those assumptions with the following.

Keep the product as simple as possible and bring it to the market as soon as possible.

That way, we can see as soon as possible if there’s a market for our product or not. If there’s a market, we will get a lot of feedback from our users. Then, we can develop new versions of our product taking into account the feedback that we received. That feedback will most likely be different than our ideas.

Work in Iterations

Instead of spending 12 months on developing a product and then launching it, launch a simple version of the product after the first month. Then launch a new version every month taking into account the feedback you receive. That way, the final product will be much different than you first imagined. It will also have a higher chance of success.

Moreover, if there isn’t enough demand for what you offer, you can cancel the project, and save the remaining 11 months of work.

Keep the Feedback Loop Short

Instead of planning your projects for longer terms such as a year and more, focus on shorter terms such as a month or even a week. That keeps the feedback loop short. The product can be improved every week according to the feedback received in the previous week.

You will see that most of the things that you think and worry about during the development phase will be irrelevant in the marketplace. The marketplace will give you other challenges that you have to think and worry about. Therefore, it’s better to let go of all of your worries and hit the marketplace as soon as possible.

The marketplace will give you other challenges that you have to think and worry about.

Don’t overanalyze during the development phase. Don’t fall in love with an idea. Implement it quickly and cheaply and get it to the marketplace. Once your idea is validated in the marketplace, then you can spend more time and money on improving it or developing a better version from scratch.

Market First, Develop Later

You can take that approach one step further and not develop your product at all. Just start marketing and build relationships with potential customers. Build a following first. Once you have a following of potential customers, learn what they want and need. Learn what they are willing to pay for. Only then develop or find the products and then deliver to them.

Deliver 12 Products in the Next 12 Months

If the content of this post is too counterintuitive to you, just try to deliver 12 products in 12 months. That’s a great practice to learn how to eliminate the features that don’t deliver any value to the customer.

You’ll also learn not to fall in love with your ideas as well. You’ll see that most of those products won’t receive any demand from the market at all. And who knows, maybe one of those 12 products will receive attention from the marketplace and you can work on new, better versions of them.

Moreover, don’t be too enthusiastic about possible business deals as well. People are after business deals all the time and most of those deals don’t get closed anyway. So, don’t bet the farm on a possible deal.

Conclusion

It’s human nature to be too enthusiastic and perfectionistic when you first start up a business. However, the needs of the marketplace will most probably be different than what you plan to offer. Therefore, it’s better to get to the marketplace as soon as possible, receive feedback, and then pivot your business.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.