doing teaches you a lot more than planning

I am a planner by nature. Give me a new project or venture and I get excited just by the prospect of thinking through the strategy and coming up with a robust plan to move it forward. Those early brainstorming sessions when ‘anything is possible’ are like a narcotic to me and if I am not careful, I can stay in that mode too long.

The problem with staying in the planning phase is that you are dealing with too much theory. Creating contingency plan after contingency plan is really just a smokescreen for giving in to The Resistance and until you take some sort of action to put you in front of your customers or the recipients of your ideas, you really have no feedback that is useful.

This weekend my wife and I experienced a perfect illustration of the power of doing. We have been talking about helping my sister expand her Ugandan fashion business in the US for close to two years but we have not really taken any steps to move things forward. About a month ago, my wife signed up for an event through our church that showcases different vendors in a ‘bazaar’ format and we decided to set up a table with my sister’s fashions to drum up some business.

The event was this weekend and we only made one sale.

But, man did we learn a lot about how we can be more successful next time. Not only did we interact with real life prospects and hear the kinds of things that interested or did not interest them, having the deadline of the event forced us to put together the beginning infrastructure for us to truly move this venture forward.

Instead of taking weeks to come up with a full-fledged e-commerce site for the business, I spent a few hours updating her existing website and the shopping cart I was able to create was quiet useful – a true MVP that I can now use as starting point to get to the right solution over time. Because I had a deadline, I had to ship.

Another outcome of the deadline is that it forced us to work through the issues of pricing, shipping costs, profitability and time-to-market with my sister and again, although we still have a lot of issues to resolve, there is forward momentum.

Finally, the one sale could be seen as a failure, but it is actually an excellent motivator to do a whole transaction from start to finish and ensure the client has as enchanting an experience as possible. The feedback we get from serving this one customer will be worth multiples over any spreadsheet we could have put together of projected sales and expected customer responses to marketing.

When it comes to launching a platform (in this case, my sister’s US presence for her business), I believe doing will always trump planning.