I used to meet with my cofounders a few times a week. We were each working on parts of our business plan. “John” was working on the engineering model, “Jim” was working on the marketing model, and I was working on the overall financial plan.
After about two months of staring at each other across the kitchen table, I was itching to get started. In our case that meant raising money.
You think you’re ready to launch long before you’re really ready to launch.
I was working on the pitch deck in parallel. I had a pretty good idea what I thought was necessary for a good pitch deck, so it took me maybe a day to put the deck together.
Because I was an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) at San Francisco based VC fund at the time, we did a rehearsal pitch to Dave and Alain, the two partners I was working with, first. And of course, we bombed.
To put it nicely, our pitch was horrible. We made every mistake in the book.
There was too much text, Worse than that, I don’t think we really explained what we were doing until around slide 5.
Dave and Alain were gentle in their criticism, but they were also to the point. They pointed out, slide by slide, exactly what we needed to improve.
But, it’s important you launch when you think you’re ready because that’s how you will grow.
I realized instantly the mistakes we were making. It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head.
I redid the pitch, and I showed it to Dave the next week. “This is much better,” Dave said. “I think you’re ready to go.”
Maybe we would have eventually gotten to this same point working at my kitchen table, but it likely would have taken a lot longer. Sometimes you’re much better off drawing a line in the sand and just getting started.
Then you’ll grow even more.
There’s an old saying about first time CEOs “growing into the job.” That’s what I’ve seen happen over and over again with the entrepreneurs I work with.
You start at one level, and then you quickly realize that you’re not even close to where you need to be. So you work hard, learn on the go, and you grow to the next level.
But the learning never stops. You just keep growing. As I said, I’ve seen it happen again and again with the entrepreneurs I work with.
I can remember multiple times in my own journey saying to myself, “Now we’ve got it.” I’d hit a temporary plateau. Then I realized that I still had more growing to do.
That’s the point. You’re always growing as a startup CEO.
Your definition of being ready will change as you continue growing. And the speed at which you’re ready for the next product launch, pitch deck, or whatever you’re working on will increase as well.
You’re probably familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory that he wrote about in “Outliers.” The only way you get to 10,000 hours (mastery) is by going hour by hour, day by day.
Along the way, you’ll think you’ve achieved mastery many times. Then you’ll realize you’ve still got a long way to go.
For more, read: How Does Your Role As CEO Change As Your Company Grows?