You're trying too hard

Rock leaf river

Source: Flickr – All rights reserved by richieJ1

The stink of desperation is a turnoff. This is just as true with startups as it is with dating. We’ve all seen it. Startups that are struggling to find customer fit and traction. But, there is a fine line between being nimble, lean, and responsive; and tossing and turning like a leaf in the wind.

It is easy to get into the position of the leaf, flipping left and right and round and round trying to adapt to a customer’s feedback. But, I’ve found that it’s then all too easy to find yourself way too far down a path that has taken you far away from your intended destination. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, get some perspective, and remember the core of your value prop. Remembering the problem that you originally wanted to solve, and what it is that you wanted to be.

Now, I’m not saying that you should be a rock. Don’t close your eyes and ears, refuse to budge, and blindly pursue some imaginary goal. Hopefully, if you are following the Lean Startup model, you already started with deep discussions with your potential customers. You listened and worked out a plan to create a solution to their problems. Yes, you will need to be nimble and adapt to feedback and changes on the path to a real solution. But, you do need to maintain the essence of your original focus; and keep the core of what you want to be and deliver. That’s what great brands do.

I guess what I’m saying is that you need to stand for something. What you are and what you offer needs to be crystal clear and simple in the minds of your customers. Don’t be that company that tries to be all things to all people, and in the end comes across as desperate and amorphous.

Be the river. Have a focus, a goal, and an endpoint where you know that you want to end up. But, adapt and change course as needed, flow around obstacles, and be relentless in your pursuit of that goal. It’s ok to let some customers go. It’s ok to say; “That’s not what we do and that’s not who we are.” Flow around them and move on. Don’t let yourself be dammed up by myriad feature demands that make no sense for your true core.

Working hard is admirable. Trying too hard is not.

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