At start up, founders define their brand based on their vision. Most of the time they don’t get it quite right. Great brands are revealed one customer interaction at a time. They follow an evolutionary tract that is difficult to predict. Great entrepreneurs do not resist the evolution. They embrace the fact that their business plan will improve with time. If you have not read it yet, get a copy of The Startup Owner’s Manual. Steve Blank and Bob Dorf have worked and advised hundreds of startups, and they recommend founders embrace the evolution of their business plan. In fact, they recommend against writing a traditional business plan and encourage founders to pivot their business model to follow the path of solving pressing problems and delighting customers. Their advice is well founded and seems like common sense. I am astounded when founders get hung up clinging to their original vision.
Learn to let go of your early vision. It is not about your ego. It is about the customers. Original visions are rarely perfect. They are like the statue of David that Michelangelo revealed one small chip at a time. During the entire process, David was imperfect and hidden from view. Through diligence, Michelangelo was able to reveal the perfect David. Your vision is no different. It takes diligence to chip away at the layers of everything your brand is not and reveal what it is at its core.
Even the greatest brands get it wrong at first. The Beatles started with the name “The Quarrymen” and then upgraded to “Johnny and the Moondogs” before finally settling on the “Beatles.” And, their sound evolved! Google’s original search engine was named Backrub. They started out providing search results of text based websites and pivoted into many different businesses, many of which didn’t work out (google founders link). One of the most remarkable aspects of Google is their ability to throw clever new ideas up against the wall and move on when it doesn’t quite work out. Their blockbuster successes far surpasses their failures. Take a look at IBM today and compare them to the IBM of the 1980s. They are an entirely different company.
The list of pivots are as large as there are successful brands. So, why do you think your vision is perfect? Reevaluate everything that you do. Take a look at every aspect of your business model, your sales process, marketing and operations, and ask yourself, is there a better way? If we could do this more efficiently, what might it look like? Don’t be afraid to try something new and fail. Learning guarantees failure, and lots of it!