Move fast and break things was Mark Zuckerberg’s personal mantra in the early days of Facebook and eventually became a culture that was adopted by the development team. I added the believe in yourself layer because without that self believe you won’t find the courage to move fast and break things.
In my few years of being an entrepreneur and meeting other entrepreneurs, I have come to place entrepreneurs into two groups.
Let’s call the first group wannaprenuers. This group is more in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur than actually practicing entrepreneurship. They are always on to something. They are writing a business plan, they are building their websites, they are creating their logos, and they are talking to suppliers. The wannaprenuers are doing everything except starting the business.
The other group we call realprenuers. This group does all the above and also starts the business. Business doesn’t start when you launch your website. It doesn’t start when you open your office. Business starts when you deliver full cycle on your value proposition – which includes getting paid. Until you get paid in business, you are just being busy.
Interestingly, the fear that wannaprenuers face includes a fear of failure, wanting to get every little thing right and, sometimes, achieving the feeling of perfection. The move fast and break things approach allows you to confront your fears and assumptions quickly enough. The best way to overcome the fear of failure is to do that which causes you to feel fear. On wanting to get everything right first, know that actually doing lets you know if you are getting it right or wrong.
If I could compartmentalise business, I will put it in four broad categories. Starting, testing, learning, and scaling. Newton’s first law of motion states that an object remains in a state of rest until acted upon by a force. Nothing happens in life, business, or careers without movement. So if one has to move, one might as well move fast. The quicker you move through the business process compartments, the sooner you can validate your assumptions.
There are two broad assumptions in business; the value assumption and the growth assumption. The value assumption is you believing customer A will buy your product because of attributes B and C. This needs to be validated in the marketplace. Customer A may actually buy your product but for attributes D and E and customer B, who you didn’t think is a potential customer, may end up buying due to attribute A.
Knowing your customers and understanding why they buy from you sums up your value assumption. Your growth assumption looks at how your business will scale. Scaling your business has four factors worth considering: dynamics of the marketplace, people, processes, and cash.
Move fast and break things, as illustrated above helps you test the four compartments of business. Another thing the advice does for you is to open you up to other possibilities. You could start a business and while testing and learning, spot another opportunity that delivers higher value to the customer and more money back to you. Without starting, without moving, such opportunities cannot be harnessed.
The story is told of an entrepreneur who wanted to start a water bottling business. He realised the market was near saturation. Also, he observed most of the bottle designs used by other businesses bore the same resemblance. He then decides to use a special bottle design for differentiation purposes to gain market share.
While researching how to create his own bottle, he realised that space had few players, less work, and more margins than the bottled water business. He abandons the water business and concentrates on the bottling business. He made more money and gained more market share in a short time, a feat that would not have been achieved if he weren’t moving fast and breaking things.
The people who achieve success are quick to tell you that they fail the most. Thomas Edison who was known for creating the light bulb and commercialising electricity had over a thousand other inventions, many unknown and probably without relevance.
People who are seen as creative aren’t necessarily creative. They only have and test more ideas than the average person does. It is a numbers game. So move quickly, start, test, learn, and scale and if you get stuck at any of the processes, reiterate and start the cycle again. The more you practice this cycle the better you get at it, using less time and resources to achieve potentially more.
There’s this maxim that says an entrepreneur is one who goes from failure to failure without losing his optimism and enthusiasm. That statement isn’t completely true. We do lose our enthusiasm. Some go back to paid jobs, many end up in a lot of debt, some lose the trust and confidence of people closest to them when success seems delayed in coming. For some others, people just assume they are crazy to have walked away from a “good life” to pursue a dream.
The worst doubt to have is self-doubt; it sets in easily especially after failing spectacularly or repeatedly.
I have walked in those shoes and I know where it pinches. The one thing you can’t afford is to stop believing in yourself. If anything, after a fall, consider yourself more valuable and knowledgeable, smarter, and wiser. The failure, regardless of how spectacular and publicised it is, is an experience gained. Experiences are what life is about. Sometimes they are great, other times they are not so great.
The experiences that become part of history are created by the ones who move fast and break things and also believe in themselves. Dare yourself to walk the path less travelled.
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