Decisions maketh the business

Running a business is all about  decision making.  Decision making is all about evaluating options and picking the best one for the direction you want to go down.  This invariably leads to making compromises.

Back when I was still in the Navy, I was involved in a few Defence procurement projects.  The “client” represented the Navy’s interests (the “warfighters”) and it was our job as engineers to take these requirements and evaluate the available options, presenting a technical recommendation for which system we would ultimately procure.

The problem was, as it always is, nothing existed that would satisfy every single one of their requirements – so no matter which solution we went down, there would be a compromise.  In one particular system, the compromise may have been number of simultaneous incoming missiles which could be engaged, or type of missile threat which could be defeated, or alignment with existing Navy inventory.  Nothing would meet every demand and this was a $7bn (yes billion) project.  Compromises were being made even when the budget was over one hundred and forty thousand times the budget of a typical startup.

Feature creep killeth the venture

One of the biggest challenges startup entrepreneurs face is making compromises on their product when faced with an “either or” option, particularly around “features”.  Perhaps not so coincidently, one of the biggest reasons that development projects go over budget is when an entrepreneur is unable to make a compromise on scope, preferring to do “everything” rather than “just that one thing”.

Managing compromises is tough, I know what it’s like to have all these awesome ideas which you can close your eyes and just see and be told that you can only afford one of them.  Or that it will be 1/100th the size you imagined.

But making good compromises is what makes a good entrepreneur great and is a key tenant to your startup’s success.

Tips to making good compromises:

  • Focus on the MVP. Ask yourself “is this function critically required to make money when we launch, yes or no?”
  • Rephrase the question. Rather than think “yes or no” condition yourself to think “now or later”
  • Rank your priorities. Write down every function/feature you’re building and organise them in a list from most important to least.  If you’re up for an either or question, the one higher up the list is more important.
Filed under:   ceo   compromises   leadership