Who needs process — let’s just get out there and do it. Right?

People, especially entepreneurs, don’t like to follow process if they can avoid it.  This fact is especially true when the process is not intuitive.  We are generally driven to just get started and build stuff.  My belief about how we assess someone’s contribution is based on their list of stuff.  The people with the longer list look like they accomplished more than the ones with the shorter list.  We don’t necessarily look to see if the stuff on the list added any value.  We also tend to consider stopping to think before we act as a waste of time.  Unfortunately this way of going about things has never been very productive and will be less so over time.

The problem we are starting to accept is that people don’t know in advance what will work and what won’t.  This reality is true for stock investments as well as for starting a business.  This reality is true despite having a number of experts trying to appear as if somehow they do.  We read in the press about all of the successful people who seem to have created a business from some grand plan in their head and executed it just right.  What we don’t read about are the thousands of people who did the same thing and failed.

If you have an idea for a business and just go for it you might succeed.  Then again you might not.  Just because we were successful this time doesn’t mean we will be successful next time.  Just because we failed doesn’t mean we will fail next time.  There are few successful serial entrepreneurs and many people who have followed multiple failures with a success.  By jumping in feet first we are throwing ourselves on the mercy of randomness.

We can’t do anything about the uncertainty that surrounds the start up and growth of a new venture.  But, we can manage this uncertainty and prevent alot of waste.  We can also discover our missteps in time to make corrections.  By using a process of continual learning we are building the product as we learn what the customer wants and doesn’t want.  An example of a process is the lean start up approach that starts with a minimal product and tests each new feature as it is built, letting the market drive the product configuration.

There is a similar train of thought described best as an option approach.  Build just enough to give us the option to take the next step.  The idea is to put enough into the product or service to see if there is acceptance before a lot of money is spent on a more permanent solution.  A cable company launched its movie on demand process by taking orders over the internet and then having people manually load the movie for the customer.  From the customer’s perspective they were getting an automated service.  The company wanted to make sure there enough demand before they spent money building this automated system.  In this process the product is executed as a series of options.

Regardless of which approach you take make sure that you have some process to manage the uncertainty that exists.  The swashbuckling entrepreneur that throws caution to the wind, takes huge risks and launches directly into a successful business is a myth.  Most of these types end up at the bottom of the ocean never to be heard from again.

Published by Vince Bulbrook

Vince has spent over twenty five years working with entrepreneurs providing financial and strategic advice. Much of this advice has centered on business model design and product development. Issues such as determining how to invest product development resources, pricing options, features, distribution and client requests all come in to play. For much of the past fifteen years Vince has operated a business providing CFO and strategy services to small businesses. In this period he spent three years in the product development group of a software company that had a $26-million development budget. Along with overseeing the development of a product he also worked with senior management and the other product teams to determine how to manage the product portfolio. He has advised clients in software, entertainment, digital media, publishing, retail and distribution on product pricing, feature selection, distribution strategy. Prior to founding the advisory business Vince worked with Price Waterhouse and Ernst and Young. Vince graduated from the Ivey School of Business with an HBA and is a Chartered Accountant.

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