Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines, once said, "We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things." These words speak to the importance of execution, not just ideas.
This sentiment is especially important when you're just starting out. Many fall into the trap of spending too much time working on their great idea before they launch. Releasing your product to the world before you think it's ready can be a scary thought, but holding back will only hurt your progress.
Here are the top 10 reasons you should launch before you're ready:
1. Find out who your users really are. Your users may not be who you think they are. You might set out to solve a problem for a certain target audience only to find that your product is extremely useful for a market sector you didn't think about at first. No matter how convinced you are that you know who your users will be, you won't really know until it's in their hands.
2. Realize that you've built up 'launching' in your head. A lot of new business owners assume that the second they turn on the lights their website or storefront will be flooded with eager customers. I've heard of founders who were worried their servers won't be able to handle all the traffic because their idea is just that cool. Sorry to disappoint you, but this is almost never the case. It's usually a slow climb to success, and the sooner you get your idea out there the sooner you can begin that climb.
3. Discover that done is better than perfect. Even former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a man infamous for his desire to strive for perfection, is famous for saying "real artists ship." A product is useless until it is in the hands of the consumer; create something that works and ship it. You can spend time iterating and perfecting it after you get it out the door.
4. Get to ROI faster. Every additional day you spend working on your product before you launch is additional time, money and effort you're spending without generating revenue. This not only increases the time it will take to make a return on your initial investment, it also means you're spending less time making money.
5. Invite feedback. Don't build your product in a silo. You need feedback if you want to build the best product to serve your market and the best feedback is from the users themselves. Open the doors and get people to start using your product so they can tell you how they want to see it be made better.
6. Attract support and resources. Looking for a co-founder? New employees? Investors? Advisers? It's hard for them to find you when you're keeping your idea behind closed doors. By launching you'll find it's much easier to attract the support and resources you need.
7. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Having users to test out new ideas is the best way to iterate quickly and find out what works. Having users gives you the opportunity to test your ideas on a real audience. This will allow you to analyze real results and most importantly see what really works.
8. Recognize that ideas are just the beginning. Afraid that as soon as you launch people will begin stealing your idea? I hear at least one founder tell me that every week. Every time I hear it I cringe a little. The truth is that you aren't the first person to have had your idea before. You also won't be the last. Success is going to depend on your ability to bring your idea to market, not just on being there first.
9. Avoid too many features. Many have referred to this as 'featuritis' or scope creep. When we work on something too long we add more features. It is easy to sit in a closed office (or apartment or coffee shop) and brainstorm all the amazing features users might want. Often the result is a product that over-thinks the initial problem and ultimately doesn't end up helping anyone. Once you get things halfway right you should launch, from there you can grow your feature list naturally based on actual user feedback.
10. Stop building the wrong thing. Not all ideas are successful. When a startup begins to fail, a great way to get off the losing track and back onto one that looks promising is to pivot. The trick is to do this quickly and gracefully. The longer you wait to launch, the shorter your runway to find an idea that is actually going to stick. So launch early and if your idea isn't everything you imagined it to be at least you'll have more time to find an idea that is.
"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." – Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn
Katherine Hague is the co-founder and CEO of ShopLocket. Prior to launching ShopLocket, Katherine has worked as an independent digital media consultant, Shopify theme developer, and in a variety of marketing positions for Toronto-based startups. Follow her on Twitter at @KatherineHague.