How To Kill Your Small Business

If you’re looking for ways to grow your business, there are many of them out there. You can research the tried and true ways, you can opt for the path less traveled or you can work up a hybrid that will give you the best of both worlds. However, if you’re looking to fail, to stop your business dead in its track and to severely limit yourself in profitability, you need to do only one thing.

You have to wait. That’s it. Just do nothing.

I get to speak with lots of small business owners in my travels. The other day while seated on a train I met a man named David. David sells audiophile records through his Web site and with so many people finally pulling out of the recession he had some ideas on ways he could grow his business to reach new customers. He had been working on his plan since the recession first started, knowing the summer would also be slow. He’s been filling a notebook for almost 9 months now, all filled with ideas. But nothing implemented. Just notes of all the things he wanted to do to increase the profitability of his computer. Things he’d do eventually. Someday.

The problem with “someday” is that it’s not on the calendar. That day you’re waiting for isn’t coming.

The Telegraph had an interesting article last week showing how 20 popular Web sites looked when they first launched. Included in the list were the first iterations of Google, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, Apple (that’s a beauty) and other sites that most people would instantly recognize. Big brand sites. And it wasn’t pretty. Most of the sites look pretty crude, with only a glimpse of the functionality that they have now. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if these sites weren’t launched until they were “perfect” and “ready”. If Larry Page and Sergey Brin wouldn’t have launched Google until they had every page on the Web already indexed and spidered.

My guess is that Google, along with the rest of them, never would have launched. They’d still be a small business owner’s great “someday” idea

We all suffer from this type of paralyzing perfection. The voice in our head that says it’s not ready yet, that it’s not good enough to go live. But at that rate, you’ll never take that next step. You’ll sit on the product until it’s not “new” anymore, you’ll suck the excitement of everything that you do.

One of the great things about being a small business is the freedom you have to experiment. Things don’t have to be perfect right out of the gate. You can try things. You can launch unfinished. You can fail and you won’t be crucified for it. You may even be applauded for your efforts.

As a small business owner, you need to take chances. Your whole business is a chance. Be true to that. Get rid of the negative thinking and just do it. If you wait for “perfection”, your business will never grow. There will always be enough distractions and more important work before you can launch.

Find a way to balance your goal of striving for quality while avoiding paralyzing perfectionism. Something that is “almost ready” but up and running and getting traffic will always be worth more than the perfect idea still in your head.

Stop waiting. Start launching.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

29 Reactions
  1. Bravo, Lisa. Bravo.

  2. Very interesting article. I agree the one of the great things about a small business is that you have the ability to experiment. But, you have to be careful with you experiments, because you don’t want dig yourself to deep in debt, with failed experiments, that you can’t get yourself back on top.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree that small businesses should experiment; run it up the flag pole and see who salutes.

    I also have a request to customers, bloggers, analysts or anyone tasked with reviewing the offerings of small businesses: Don’t be so negative. Most small business owners work hard to put the product together and overcome their negative thinking, so be helpful with your feedback. Compliment them on the parts you like and explain what you would like to see in the future. Just be nice.

  4. So true. So true. It is sad to see so many “entrepreneurs” fall into this trap. the quotes are because they are not truly entrepreneurs. They would rather see their idea die rather than launch an imperfect product or allow someone else to push it along.

    Sad, but true.

  5. So true. I think people’s minds get in the way sometimes. They consume their minds with thinking and planning but then they have a hard time following through to the doing phase. You never know what’s going to work or be successful until you actually try it.

  6. Lisa,

    Nice job. {Again}

    Maybe my ADD infused “Ready Fire Aim” strategy is the way to go after all.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  7. Fantastic! Risk are something small businesses must take to be successful I believe. In fact, this goes for life as well. Good read!

  8. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, taking the right chances and being bold can help businesses move forward and grow. Rather than being nervous about your decisions and never acting on them, be bold and take action. Strong entrepreneurs that take the right chances on their businesses are the ones that succeed. See a related blog post here:

  9. I like your article and mention it on my blog as a part of my campaign to get small business owners to be creative, make a plan and then implement. It is that implementation piece that is so difficult and frustrating. Thanks for the article to reinforce this perspective.

  10. Dear Lisa;

    I’m brazilian and I’m starting my own company of special market research (a kind of very specific universe of marketing research) and just love your article.

    I would like to know if you can give me your permition to translate it to brazilian portugues and I will post it on my blog’s company.

    Congratulations and looking forward for your answer.
    (Of course you will give all the credits and a link to the original article in the start and in the end of the article, I don’t want to start my own campany stollen intelectual property, lol).

  11. Your article also remember me pretty much the movie “build and they will came”. That’s a great article, congratulations again…

  12. Well done Lisa! Yes, that’s what I’ve been telling plenty of small business owners for years. Amazing how it just becomes a virus and spreads quickly. Nice way to tell the story.

  13. Great post, Lisa, though I’d have to disagree with you on one part:

    “If Larry Page and Sergey Brin wouldn’t have launched Google until they had every page on the Web already indexed and spidered.”

    Google and a number of other companies that were born in that era launched when the Web itself was scattered and imperfect (not to say the internet is a model of perfection today). It was much more acceptable back then to launch a Web site for all to see because few people expected a crisp, clean, and fully operational site – and there were less people on the Web then too.

    Today’s entrepreneur may be able to launch their Web business despite not being quite ready, but the Web’s social nature might end up highlighting a new site’s weaknesses rather than its utility.

  14. Doing nothing is definitely also a way to kill not only your Biz but yourself. Try just sitting down and doing nothing for a few weeks and you’ll starve to death, the same principle applies to Business, even if your biz is on autopilot you still have to pay attention once in a while.

  15. Great tip. thank you so much. We all need to be reminded that we should just do something. Taking action will always get you farther than planning alone. Make sure you have some good content, and move forward. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  16. Lisa,

    Go for it! By the way: How is it going with your personal site? Have you figured out the Thesis WordPress theme? I have to get going with my site soon… 😉

    I haven’t checked out Drudge lately, but my guess is that is hasn’t changed a lot since 1997… 😉

  17. This article is helpful to me. I am a new homebased Business owner. I am running two Web Retail stores on my own. No capital and no support and learning as I go. I am new and the stores is new too. I have yet to get one order for my one store in 6 months now. I am realistic I know it takes time and alot of hard work to make things work and patients too. I would like some feedback from some folks here in this blog and business folks alike to help by giving me some feedback on how I can make my store better and maybe tell me what I am doing wrong on why no one will buy from me! HELP!

  18. Great article Lisa. Couldn’t agree more! Paralyzing perfection is a very real challenge for a lot of people.

    Love him or hate him, I think Howard Stern said it best while arguing with his staff one day, “Tell me what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.” I’ll never forget it and now my first thought with a new idea is how am I going to implement it, not who am I going to tell about it.

  19. Great article. I read another article that spoke to entrepreneurs who were not looking to start a business from scratch but to buy a business with cashflow.
    One of the interesting insights plays nicely to your article. Sometimes it is best not to do anything. “One mistake I often find new business owners make,” says Bacinello, “is making too many changes right away. I say to them – ‘Hold on, you don’t need to change anything right away — just let the business run a while and see how it goes, learn the industry, learn the business first.'”
    What are your thoughts.

  20. Lisa thanks for your post. I really sense your enthusiasm. That said, it comes across to me as a spirited “halftime” speech. Where is the discussion of NPV Capital Budgeting guiding your investment decisions? Positioning any business is an aggregate effort of product, marketing, customer handling and investment in quality control. I have never known of an entrepreneur who willingly lets grass grow under foot.

    I like your ideas. To that end, in addition to the rhetoric, I would be very interested in how you suggest we can measure – objectively – your insights so that we can most efficiently incorporate them into our going concerns.

  21. I have that notebook of ideas, however, I try to get everything on the list done before I have to turn the page. I might end up launching to quickly in some cases so some sort of balance could be a good thing.