I’m a Formula One fan. I get a charge out of going to the races; it’s exhilarating. Maybe that’s why I like working with travel start-ups. The start-up world, like the world of race cars, is risky but the rewards are big. It’s hypercompetitive, and moving fast is the only way.
And this, the moving fast, is where I find most start-ups suffer at some point in their evolution. It can happen at any stage of the game—from product development to marketing roll-out—and I can’t overstate how detrimental it is. A Confucian proverb comes to mind:
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
Let that settle. For start-ups the risk is really ending up with no pebble at all. Getting paralyzed at any stage of the game can threaten to undermine the whole venture. Here are a few of the most common reasons for start-up paralysis and prescriptions for getting back on track.
More often than not perfection is the problem.
Don’t forget the other proverb: Perfection is the enemy of good. Good old analysis paralysis is often at the core of a hold up. I’ve seen CEOs doing multiple reviews of basic content before it heads out the door. And I totally get it. It’s your baby. You want to make sure branding is spot on, the message is crystal clear, that your company looks as smart as it is. But the message needs to get out quickly. If it gets held up, it gets stale.
The cure: Surround yourself with people you trust to make decisions then give them the reins. It’s the only way to build an organization of fulfilled and loyal colleagues. If you’re having trouble letting go, then evaluate your resources and consider an outside consultant that can help get projects back on track or assist in hiring the talent you need.
Sometimes fear is the problem, especially if funding is tight.
This is especially true for start-ups. Many have limited funding or are being evaluated for funding, and it’s hard to take any risk at all when you’re not sure if you can bounce back from it financially. Nevertheless, fear is your greatest enemy, and you have to push through it to succeed.
The cure: If you feel that fear of failure is the source of your hold ups, then evaluate where the fear is coming from. If it’s due to limited funding, then prioritize your funding strategy. If it’s due to issues with the product, put together an advisory board to consult.
And sometimes clarity, or lack thereof, is the root.
Often paralysis is the result of a muddled brand or a product that keeps changing. This happens a lot: an idea is a good one, but it’s not the product that the market really needs or wants. After a couple of software tweaks or new product roll-outs, everyone is fuzzy on who the audience is or what the company goals are.
The cure: When you find yourself rejecting everything that marketing is sending your way, you know you’ve got a clarity problem in your organization. Revisit your brand, your mission, and your product/s. Sit down with your executive team and determine if reworking your statements and strategies will clear things up, or if you need to possibly even reorganize the company in the interest of keeping everything on target. I’ve seen new companies wisely split in two early on because the product had already evolved so much.