In business, Starting and Finishing things are two sides of the same coin. You’ve got to Start Things –  be willing to get out of your head and start making things real. Whether it’s fiddling around with some plastic parts or putting words on paper, “Starting Things” is all about taking the first step. And then, you have to be willing to look at what you’ve done, accept it as it is, and move on to the next thing. You have to be willing to Finish Things.

But we demand excellence, don’t we? Anything worth doing is worth doing right… isn’t it?

That’s great advice for flossing your teeth or balancing your checkbook, but it shouldn’t dictate every aspect of your business. As the Chinese proverb goes, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”

As an entrepreneur, you don’t want to spend time perfecting and over-thinking something that the customers don’t want. It’s a much better idea to build enough of a product or service that you can test it – and get actual customer feedback. That way, you’ll know if you’re on the right path.

For example: Google releases a lot of products as “betas” – testers – so they get feedback from actual users. Quite often, these “beta tests” are secretly full-feature product launches. Sound counter-intuitive? I mean, the whole point of a beta test is for real customers to test a product and give feedback right? But it’s absolute marketing genius. Rather than become irritated that a new product isn’t perfect, the customers gain a stake in building a better product. And if something isn’t perfect (and it won’t be) Google can get real customer feedback, and they can fix it. 

I’m not suggesting you throw half-baked ideas onto the market. You should flesh out and develop your idea – but you just don’t need to perfect it. You have to write your article, design your prototype, develop your system – and then you have to hand it over to your customers. You can always make adjustments after you have real feedback from real customers. In fact, you’ll have a more accurate idea of what really needs to be done after you see how it works in the real world.

Like Google, Microsoft practices this; Microsoft Windows version 1.0 was a mangy mutt. Version 2.0 was a dog. 3.0 was just… kinda bad. It wasn’t until Windows 3.11 came out that Microsoft had a version of Windows that was good enough to gain market acceptance. How many versions of Windows have there been since? I know… I know… they haven’t all been home runs. But Microsoft is still alive an kicking because they actually use feedback to determine what they’ll develop or fix next. The alternative – mind-reading – is just not an effective product development plan, folks. Feedback minimizes your risk of total failure by making sure you put your time and money into ideas that customers have actually said they want.

If you’re having trouble letting go of a project,  it’s time to be honest with yourself about your real motives. A lot of the time, perfectionism is a coping mechanism entrepreneurs use for hiding self-doubt. You have to trust that you’ve done a good enough job. And you have to trust your ability to accept criticism and make changes in the future. It’s a risk, but it’s a much smaller risk than guessing what people will want. I guarantee this is not the first time you’ve taken a risk – whether it was trying out for the solo in 8th grade choir, applying for a job, or signing up for Krav Maga classes. Maybe you’ll be awesome at it. Maybe they’ll love you. Maybe you’ll accidentally break the instructor’s collarbone and ruin a $500 punching bag your first day. You can keep fretting and worrying about it – or you can do it, know for sure, and move forward.
Remember: Finished is better than perfect.










This post originally appeared in our eBook “Entrepreneur Essentials for Making It Work and Getting Stuff Done”

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.