The Slow and Focused Startup vs. The Fast and Furious

slowA couple of weeks ago, I hurt my knee.

Aside from putting a summer of hockey (yes, the season never really ends) and tennis in jeopardy, it forced me to move slower.

Rather than running around trying to get multiple things done, I had to focus on getting one thing accomplished before moving on to the next task. For someone who multi-tasks, it was a dramatic change in behaviour.

The upside is got me thinking about many startups do business. In an effort to become successful, they madly run off in multiple directions as quickly as possible. By working on many things at the same time, the idea, in theory, is lots of stuff will get accomplished – hopefully, all good.

One of the big reasons for this modus operandi is fear of failure and running out of time. If startups are not working on a variety of goals, they think they’re putting themselves at risk, particularly if they’re operating in a competitive marketplace.

The problem, however, is taking a fast and furious approach often increases risk and increases the possibility of failing.

What happens is many of a startup’s goals aren’t successfully completed because they don’t receive enough attention. Instead, many things are done in a mediocre way.

The most blatant example of a startup trying to do too much, too quickly is the feature flurry. Rather than making sure each feature performs well and meets the needs of users, too many startups pump out feature after feature in the hope that some of them will stick.

From the outside looking in, it appears a lot is happening but little or none of it is any good because the startups has emphasized quantity over quality.

Maybe the best approach for startups is slow and focused, rather than fast and furious.

It means a startup has the appetite to move forward pragmatically and thoughtfully rather than being a tactical machine. It means taking a slow, methodical approach that involves making decisions after healthy a healthy amount of discussion and consideration.

It could see a startup act differently than many rivals, who may appear to be more active and aggressive.

But don’t confuse being slow to being uncompetitive. Startups that decide it makes no sense to move at a break-neck speed have, instead, determined that being focused is a better and smarter approach.

It takes courage to be slow and focused because it can be like going against the flow. The upside is startups can spend their time and energy on making the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons.

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  • Stéphane

    That’s a startup paradox. We know we have to focus on few things and do those very well. But because we are in survival mode and we need clients, we go fast, work on things we shouldn’t in a perfect world and often cut on quality to please as many clients as possible. So much for the great principles! Get the money, we’ll deal with the problems later ;-)

    As far as I’m concerned, the good news is that after two years, this is what we tend to do. That’s our goal in short: Do less, make great product and chillax :)

    • Mark Evans

      It’s difficult to move slowly when you’re in the eye of the hurricane. :) That said, doing better by doing less can be a good approach. Thanks for the comment.