Early-stage startup decisions are two-way doors
Avoid analysis paralysis and push through
For my research, I interviewed a batch of first-time founders. My goal was to learn about how they experienced the highs of starting a business. What makes a high?
Being in momentum, being in flow and most importantly: making progress. But what is progress? This one early-stage founder explain me progress is making decisions.
It was not just one first time founder that mentioned this. It was unanimous (16/16) that decision making equals progress.
Decisions define your startup
Making decisions is essential as it defines your startup. In the beginning, it may seem your startup can go in five-hundred directions. At some point, only a few directions feel logical.
“To define is to limit” is what quote-machine Oscar Wilde once wrote. Making decisions on your startup might feel limiting, but without decisions, you will remain in the idea purgatory phase.
One-way doors and two-way doors
I learned about this analogy last year and I love it. Think of decisions as doors you can go through. Some doors you can go through but not go back. You will see there's no doorknob and pushing the door does nothing.
Then there's two way doors. Two way doors are reversible decisions. These are decisions that you can overturn. You might not get everything back, but no major things are lost.
Most decisions in early-stage startups are two-way doors
Name a decision that you can't reverse easily that you made in the first ten weeks of your startup. Your logo or company name? Those five interviews you did? Those three weeks you spend on building that MVP?
One way doors are such because they lock you to a certain direction, sometimes legally. Buying an office space might be one. Founder agreements might be a one-way door. Getting that first employee on a 12 month contract sounds like hard to reverse. Spending €10k on inventory to produce. These are harder to reverse.
In my experience, most early-stage startup decisions, especially before problem-solution fit, pre-product or pre-revenue, are two-way doors. If you can name some one-way doors for this phase, let me know!
Made decisions are better than no decisions
I'm not saying two-way door decisions don't have sunk costs. For early-stage startups, these costs often come down to time spent. You can't get those hours back, that's true.
This makes most founders aware that time is their most precious resource. Therefore, founders want to spend it on the right things.
However, sometimes I see founders, especially with an engineering/MBA background, to overanalyse their situation and postpone the decision. Analysis paralysis enters the game.
Time wasted on a decision is also time wasted. Should you spend a week evaluating your options of an action that takes 8 hours to test if it works?
Ask yourself: is this a one-way door or a two-way door? Keep momentum, push through those two-way doors!
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