Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seek Dis-confirming Data

I am currently working with two partners (I know, I know ... "partnerships are hard") on a new business here in Richmond and find myself being challenged with balancing the desire to get the business going versus paying attention to potential obstacles or pitfalls. To some degree my partners and I know from our own experience the primary issues to anticipate and address up front, but additional conversations lead to questions about how to make the business sustainable and successful.

Entrepreneurs can suffer from tunnel vision on achieving an objective without taking some time to put a strong foundation in place. In contrast, many suffer from being so scared by obstacles that it leads to inaction or reverting to a comfort zone. The right balance is found in acknowledging, filtering, and incorporating the challenges into your plan and actions. This can be done either by addressing them now (which is often difficult or impossible) or creating real options which allow you to make the decision in increments and/or later with additional information. (Real options plug: This may be the single most useful concept I got from business school. It's an incredibly simple, but applicable concept for small business.)

This objectivity can be difficult to maintain, however, in the rush and excitement to launch something new. There is so much that needs to be done. Additionally, you become emotionally invested in making the new venture a success. Challenges from others can be brushed aside or avoided. Resist the urge!

Keep your head and learn how to filter the comments and incorporate them appropriately. What would you do differently now in anticipation of a given challenge? Can you structure your new company or offering in such a way that you create flexibility to keep options open? Some questions may even push you to answers that increase confidence and clarity in your approach.

Hopefully this isn't too esoteric or obscure. I would think that you could quickly identify from your own experience and conversations the people and topics that challenge you and your path. What do you with them? If you dismiss them out of hand, you run a great risk. If you become obsessed and paralyzed by them, you run a great risk. And if you have a hard time maintaining this objectivity, leverage an adviser or friend who can keep you honest. There will come a day for your business, when you will be glad that you addressed the issue ahead of time.

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