Avoid Perfection

Perfection is the worst goal you could have as an entrepreneur. When I tell people that they need to shelve their strive for perfection, they are often amazed, if not sometimes offended by my suggestion.

Why is perfection so dangerous?

Perfection is a dangerous pursuit. It is a silent killer. In pursuit of perfection, entrepreneurs can reassure themselves that they are achieving greatness, when they are more likely sewing the seeds of their own failure.

  • Perfection is Crippling

Entrepreneurs are a motivated, ambitious, and confident lot. Not only are we fully capable of imagining the perfect product or service, but we truly believe we can build it and take it to market.

Perfection cripples this goal. The pursuit of perfection will not allow an entrepreneur to take a product to market that is not perfect. So the project will languish, going deeper and deeper into debt as the product is perfected. Finally, the entrepreneur loses hope, shelves the project, and the "perfect" product never sells a single unit.

  • Perfection is Deceiving

As entrepreneurs, our confident streak can turn into a cycle of self-affirmation. As we see the product on a day-to-day basis, we fix what we see is broken. As an overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs are on their own, the lack of outside influence can create an echo chamber.

We spend hours, days, weeks, and even months tweaking the software interfaces, store layouts, and pricing structures, only to find that our customers do not care anything about those things. They get turned off by "simple" things like color schemes and packaging, and never see what time we spent in the details.

  • Perfection is Myopic

Roughly half of all entrepreneurs are what I call "Technical Entrepreneurs." They are product- or service-minded, as opposed to business-minded Marketing Entrepreneurs. Technical entrepreneurs become convinced that with the perfect product, the market will flock to them.

About 50% of any successful company's job is to educate and cultivate their potential customer base. By assuming that there is a ready-made market of people just salivating for a product, Technical Entrepreneurs'  pursuit of perfection largely ignores the other necessary half of success.

Keeping Perfection Out of Your Business

Perfection can ruin your business, so now let's talk about finding ways to prevent its inevitable creep into your daily operations.

  • Set Deadlines

A common mistake I see entrepreneurs make is not setting deadlines for taking products to market. Set a deadline and do not move it! Deadlines are the most effective way to ensure that a "good enough" product reaches the market, instead of a "perfect" product sending on a work bench indefinitely

  • Employ External Feedback

Your best friends and worst enemies are the only ones who will ever be truly honest with you. Take your product to market on a limited release and have people use it and get their feedback.

  • Make Marginal Improvements

Do not try to tackle a complete product redesign. Try to find ways to make your product 10% better and apply the Deadline Rule. Push out the improvement and see how it takes. A worst-case scenario is when your customers end up hating a feature they previously loved because you changed too much too fast.

It can be counter-intuitive to want to remove perfection from your decision-making process. "Good" products beat "Great" products almost every day. "Perfect" products will sit in R&D forever. Perfection is an impossibility.

What perfection is holding your business back?