You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve read the success stories and now you’re on a mission to join the exclusive unicorn club. Surely it can’t be that hard right?
Ahem, ground control to major Tom… It’s time to get your head out of the clouds and come back down to earth. I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream big but you need to take a dose of reality. Before you start quibbling about ‘if we didn’t have visionaries we wouldn’t have…’ you need to take on board that those visionaries executed extremely well or had someone doing that task for them. If we’re talking Simon Sinek, they had the perfect ‘how’.
“What happened to the 1% improvements?”
Let’s use an example to illustrate this point further. Amazon started by selling books online. It had a good definition of the problem and a clear definition of the solution. Jeff didn’t start it by thinking ‘I’m going to put flying warehouses into the sky’. This was a vision that developed over time but at each stage, it represented a stretch goal on the current value proposition.
In a world where design-led thinking has taken over it’s strange to think you’re going to make 10x improvements to the customer experience every sprint, day, release or whatever metric you use. I’m not trying to stifle your imagination here, rather I’m trying to help your startup succeed. If you force 10x into everything you do you’re going to consistently fall short, make little progress and ultimately ruin your startup.
Don’t become disillusioned with what is possible. You need to stay focused on what matters to your start-up and right now for most of you that are paying customers. Forget about the billions of users you imagine over the next decade and just focus on those prepared to join your startup on its journey right now. Focus on your burn rate and watch it carefully as small lapses of concentration could be severe. Zirtual is a great example of a start-up that got lost in the numbers.
“Think big. Move fast.”
I want you to stay grounded but I also want you to add value every single day. Here are my three tips to help you do just that:
1. Use a Kanban system that is orientated towards value
Kanban is a method to help you visualise the flow of work. Through visualisation you allow yourself and others to easily see what progress has been made and if there are any blockers. It’s a great system for delivering value on a daily basis as work is pulled through the system.
2. Focus on real user problems, not solutions
Focusing on actual user problems is the quickest way to deliver value, fact. It’s time to stop idealising and creating solutions for problems that don’t exist. Get out there and speak with your target market and listen to them carefully. Don’t build features simply because you think you have to.
3. Consider the full user journey
Chances are your product touches just one point in your user’s journey. It’s time to expand your horizon and start thinking about all the points you can interact with them. Broken links don’t fix themselves and they offer the perfect opportunity for you to add value whilst at the same time increasing your hold on the market.
So to summarise, having a vision is great and I fully applaud stretch goals that push people out of their comfort zones - but don't try so hard to be a visionary like Mr Bezos. It’s bad for three things: you burn yourself out, you become disillusioned with what’s possible and, most importantly, you achieve nothing. Take smaller incremental steps and you’re going to be making progress much faster than you were before. It's a journey - enjoy it!