The French Foreign Legion’s unofficial motto is “Marche ou crève” (March or die). Serious stuff. But then again, they’re pretty serious. They are one of the original bands of Expendables. Trained like crazy with nothing to lose, they’re thrown into horrible situations around the world. And you have to learn French.
Taking life seriously is important even if you’re not carrying a gun into combat. You have to make sure you’re taking care of everything you’re responsible for. If you decide to set out on your own, start your own business, you’d better be sure you’re keeping an eye on everything. If you don’t take things seriously the business may not function properly or make sales or get paid. You need to march or die.
A lot of people have great ideas. Some come up with them constantly. What makes some ideas turn into profitable businesses and others just perpetuate as dreams until they blow away like smoke? There are components that you need. You have to be in the right place at the right time, and have enough capital/credit to fund good times and bad, and longer term projects that don’t pay out right away. Aside from time, place and money, you need execution. You need to make. If you have all the other components in place, and you plan and talk forever and never make, you will die.
For many startups, or people wishing to build a business, they have to decide just how much planning and research will there be before things are built? What can be done in house, and what will require outside help?
My argument is to get something out as soon as possible. Small and beautiful. Get user feedback. Make sure people actually want this. See what people really want, not what you think they want. You will almost certainly be quite surprised what people really want. Potential employees and investors will believe you’re for real when they see something up.
But beyond my argument, I have actually seen companies die. I’ve seen entire budgets devoured by meetings and plans and consultants.
I’ve also seen intelligent executives confused royally by simulations and placeholders. If it’s a website or software it’s worse. Very few people can look at wireframes, sitemaps and user experience flows and really have an idea of what they’re looking at. It’s hard to understand a representation of something without actual physical structure. Crank out a rough site, and you’ll get great internal feedback. When friends had trouble doing a research paper in college I’d crank out some junk with my wild extemporaneous thinking and furious typing. They’d start pulling out their hair, saying everything that was wrong with it. I shook my head, pointed to the paper, and said – “edit that.” It’s a lot easier to edit than to build, and much easier than conceptualizing.
Retail outlets and manufacturing physical products are much trickier, allow for less pivoting and quick fixes. But you can still make an effort to experiment and listen before making the perfect product or storefront. And you can try to get up and running and generate revenue with early versions.
Without execution, your idea is just about worthless. If you take too long you will burn up time and money and still fail. Try hard. Be bold. Make something and get feedback. Promote and sell, refine, rebuild, improve, and get it back out there. Make or die.