Ready, Fire, Aim

There were a lot of comments on last week’s post, ‘Two out of Three Ain’t Bad…’ with many of them (especially the ‘this company gets everything wrong and still succeeds’ ones) being sent by e-mail. As always, plenty of differing opinions – but there was one common thread running through all the comments, neatly summed up by Jackie Mathers’ report of a conversation in her car: The outcome … was that relationships, trust and doing the right thing were paramount.

On to this week’s news – and the move towards ‘Ready, Fire, Aim:’ the growing trend for entrepreneurs and businesses to launch – product, service, website, whatever – and then re-adjust in the light of client and customer feedback. Not to spend weeks and months and large amounts of money researching: but to simply get on with it – and use real world feedback to refine the product, service or website.

Andy Gambles summarised it exactly in another of last week’s comments: I do things I think my customers want but they quickly tell me they don’t. So instead of spending hours perfecting something, you just set it free as is and you quickly find out if you are going in the right direction via your customer feedback.

As a business coach you’d expect me to be against this trend. After all, I believe in planning, goal setting, knowing what you’re trying to achieve… However, I also believe in action – and I’ve seen too many good business ideas go by the board simply because nobody did anything. Genius and business success have a great deal in common – 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

I’ve quoted before from Rework, the remarkably readable book from Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Here’s what they have to say on the subject:

When is your product or service finished? When should you put it out on the market? When is it safe to let people have it? Probably a lot sooner than you’re comfortable with. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there.

Just because you’ve still got a list of things to do doesn’t mean it’s not done. Don’t hold everything else up because of a few leftovers. You can do them later. And doing them later might mean doing them better too. Stop imagining what’s going to work. Find out for real.

There is, of course, another significant difference these days – cost. If you’re providing a service or running a web-based business, start-up costs can be remarkably low. This mood is captured in Chris Guillebeau’s book, The $100 Start-Up .

I haven’t read it but the central message is clear from the reviews: whatever you do, make a start. The right time is now. It doesn’t take much money to make a start (hence the title) and if you get it wrong, so what? Wasn’t it a more valuable learning experience than any number of textbooks, courses and seminars?

All of this assumes that you’re not afraid to make mistakes. $100 Start-Ups almost certainly fail far more often than they succeed: I suspect the ratio is spectacularly high. Then again, the ratio of a toddler’s failed attempts at walking is spectacularly high – and we don’t say, “OK, pack it in, sweetheart. You’ve had a few goes: you’ll just have to crawl for the rest of your life…”

Fortunately, I don’t think this blog is aimed at people who are afraid of trying. So the message this week is simple. If you’ve a business idea and it won’t cost much money to test it out – go ahead and do just that: press the ‘fire’ button. And if it’s slightly off-target, that’s fine: re-adjust your aim and press fire again. And again…

Yes, there might be failures: if there are, cut them loose and move on. One success will pay for all the flops many, many times over.


  1. Rory Ryan · July 6, 2012

    Another good offering Ed. I’ve just launched my full website in this manner. I’ve received a huge amount of constructive criticism and it will take me another week to adjust it saving me valuable time. If any of your people wish to offer their criticism I’ll happily listen.

  2. Michelle Mook · July 6, 2012

    Great blog Ed – as someone who was plagued with perfectionism, over recent years I have learned that people can’t always wait and don’t always want “Gold plated”!

    Interestingly this very topic was raised yesterday at a “Organisational Change through Coaching” conference with York St John University by their Vice Chancellor Prof David Fleming. In this world of constant change we live in, everybody is starting to look at how we can deliver more quickly and efficiently. He shared that for organisations to embrace change, they need to create cultures that encourage more risk taking. Better to implement ten decisions (even if only seven of them work and move the organisation forward) than debate and discuss two for so long that change has moved us on by the time they are implemented! If more organisations worked on the basis of “seek forgivness, not permission” and empowered their people and teams to try things out and not be afraid to make mistakes, they would likely have people who adapt better to change and will have a much more engaged and productive workforce.

    And back to Jackie Mather’s comment – I guess if you’ve spent time building relationships, trust and doing the right thing, then people (both your employees and your customers) will forgive and will take the time to offer their feedback to help you get it right.

    • edreidyork · July 7, 2012

      Hi Michelle -thanks for your comments. I’m delighted to hear we’re on the same page as more exalted academic company! I know from previous businesses I’ve worked in that the true adoption of “seek forgiveness, not permission” is difficult to instill properly, even though the rewards could be great.

  3. Richard Shaw · July 6, 2012

    I recently visited Kings College, Cambridge and then a number of start-up businesses originated by graduates. The mantra is ‘fail fast and fail cheap.’ A good philosophy if you as me.

    • edreidyork · July 7, 2012

      Hi Richard – thanks to you also. I completely agree that the mantra is right for start-ups. The challenge is how to adopt that innovative approach in more established businesses.

  4. Lesley Gulliver · July 10, 2012

    Like your style. This iterative way of working (and mix of right brain and left brain activity) has to be a winning platform. Great blog post.

    • edreidyork · July 10, 2012

      Hi Lesley – thanks very much for your comments. You’ve captured it very nicely with “iterative”.

  5. Pingback: Do I feel lucky? « EdReidYork's Blog

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