You can spend hours preparing and getting all of your ducks in a row or you can throw caution to the wind and just go for it. Which attitude is best for you and which path is better for startup success?
I sat in a Moogfest panel discussion with Ideo staff last week and Perry Klebahn's phrase "don't get ready, get started" emerged. For those who don't know, Ideo (pronounced "eye-dee-oh") is an international design firm that uses the design thinking methodology to design products, mostly around digital experiences. The firm is best known for Apple's first mouse, the Palm V PDA, and Steelcase's Leap chair.
This phrase is similar to Richard Branson's notion that you need not have tons of experience to launch a successful business. There are many stories about Richard starting his Virgin empire with $200 which helped him launch Virgin magazine, Virgin records, an airline and well you know the rest. Obviously, he is a fantastic entrepreneur who has made large bets in non-traditional or seemingly unconnected businesses. As you get caught up in the magic (and brand) of Richard and Virgin, one might be fooled into thinking that his approach is emotional or that his leaps are born from some kind of risk-at-all-costs, pirate mentality.
I believe strongly in "get started" as in "with every fiber of my being" with this approach. (Too much air-quotes?) However, the best entrepreneurs are well prepared for their startup journey. What kind of preparation? Here are 4 areas where getting ready can benefit your startup leap:
Physical. I see a strong link between regular physical activity (walking, running, working out) and creativity, problem-solving and overall energy. Startups are all about those three elements. I have found that the key component is regular activity and I recommend 3-5 days per week.
Mental. What do you do to create a healthy emotional foundation for your brain? Our brains need a rest and giving it time to reboot will set you up to be at your best. What types of activities can you use to turn your brain off of business? Meditation is becoming increasingly popular? Reading, mid-day naps, and physical activity are also ways to wipe your brain clean and set up that healthy foundation. Find one that works for you.
Intellectual. Thinking through the critical aspects of your business certainly is a get ready task. I would argue that getting those thoughts and ideas validated or vetted through outsiders is even more critical. Working outside you feels more like a get started endeavor anyway but who really cares. Regardless of which side of the phrase you call it, your intellectual readiness is something you can prepare for - just dont limit your readiness to just your own brain.
Financial. I have long argued that laying a solid personal financial foundation for your leap is the single most important preparation you can exercise. For a single 22 year old it may mean living at home with Mom & Dad or crashing on your friends couch. For a married 40 year old with a couple kids it might mean cutting the vacations to Cabo and downsizing your house and automobile. If you operate under the assumption that you will get to a minimum financial level in 3 months post leap (through revenue or investment) you are almost guaranteeing failure. It just takes much longer to get there. So, how can you prepare pre-leap to save enough dollars for you to operate for 12-18 months? That is get ready preparation at its best.
The best entrepreneurs are not risk-takers. The best are risk managers. And as a risk manager, there are elements of preparation prior to the leap. Now, I do not advocate spending months on research or sitting alone in your basement writing code or a business plan. Today's best get out of the office and engage with others. Call that getting ready or call that getting started, I don't care. Just remember that the far extreme of either is not the path to success.