DELL: INSPIRATION AND IMPACT

Progress, Not Perfection
 

The key to a success? Making lots of small changes along the way

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No matter what business you are in, innovation is key. But having a “big idea” isn’t enough. Once you have your idea, you have to figure out how to create a business around it. And doing so is a process of constantly adapting, often to circumstances beyond your control.

At LearnVest, one of the things we do is help people plan for their future by offering them customized financial plans. We tell our customers is that managing your finances is about progress, not perfection. Wherever you stand, you can always tweak things to do a little bit better.

The same goes for running a company. First, you need to define “perfection” in the form of goals-;whether you’re thinking in terms of weeks, quarters, or years. What metrics do you need to hit to feel really good about things? Then, you need to focus on making progress. Take it one day at a time. What can you literally do today that will get you closer to those goals?

LearnVest is incredibly data-driven. We test every element of our entire user experience-;online and beyond. We run A/B tests on the subject lines of our daily emails. We tweak our calling schedule to see when users prefer to be contacted. We try different images on our website and other materials and gather data on what resonates best. Analytics are at the very core of everything we do. It drives our product, our marketing, and our technology.

Of course, once you have the data, you need to adapt to whatever it is it is telling you. In my experience, that comes down to creating an environment in which people can be nimble. If someone has an idea worth trying in a Monday morning meeting, let’s have it up on the site by Tuesday, let it run wild on Wednesday, gather data on how it’s performing on Thursday, and by Friday have a solid game plan for our next steps.

This kind of behavior is integral to startup life. You’re learning as you go, and that’s why jargon like “pivot” exist. Small companies must constantly pivot-;sometimes to a dizzying degree-;until they find what works. And even then, there’s always more you can do.

It’s an ongoing journey-;and exhausting one, to be sure-;but to me, that’s what makes it fun.

IMAGE: iStockphoto
Last updated: May 9, 2013

ALEXA VON TOBEL is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the financial-management and lifestyle website. She was recently selected as one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and highlighted in Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list of cool young entrepreneurs.
@alexavontobel