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Part One: Forget Perfection! Go for Evolution Instead

A lot of entrepreneurs seem to think big changes will happen all at once in their business.

Like… you’ll go from a solo operation to 10 employees in an instant, or you design a new 6-month coaching program and suddenly you won’t work with your old clients anymore, or you create your first retreat and suddenly you’re running a huge group with tons of logistics, or you change your schedule, or your business model, or your target audience and you think it’s, like, going to happen immediately.

There are two unfortunate consequences of this thinking:

    1. You don’t move forward at all… due to the belief that once this big change happens (super quickly), you will have no idea what you’re doing, and you’ll get in way over your head way too quickly (and of course that’s scary)
    2. Or, you’ll be seriously disappointed (and likely down on yourself) that it’s not happening fast enough.

The problem is that “all at once” is simply NOT how it works.

Everything in business is an (often painfully slow) iterative, evolutionary process.

This means we need to understand that change happens in baby steps… not all at once.

And it means we need to learn to let go of perfection – and having it all figured out – in favor of forward motion.

The problem is we have this crazy idea that we live in a linear world where everything has a clear beginning and end point.

If only!

In reality, we cycle around continuously, as the seasons turn, trying things, messing up, slowly adapting and shifting according to a changing environment (both inner and outer) … and doing it again.

This is how biological evolution works. It’s always been happening, and it will always continue (I’m pretty sure even we humans can’t completely mess that up).

Similarly, our businesses go in cyclical phases, travelling around a wheel.

But here’s the best part – when we finally relax into this reality, it’s actually a huge relief!

We realize that we don’t have to figure everything out all at once – things will naturally evolve and change over time, becoming more and more suited to the environment around them.

We simply can’t force it. Things take time to evolve.

That’s a big load off, right?!

This principle of iteration holds true for the overall evolution of our business, for our niche, and for our programs and services, which I’ll focus on in this article.

The Principle in Action – Beta Testing

So what does this look like in real life?

Let’s talk about beta testing. A beta version, beta test, prototype, or simply a test run, are all words for the first cycle or iteration around the wheel.

The bottom line question to guide you in creating a beta version of your program is:

What is the simplest way I can put out a quality program to try out my idea in as little time as possible?

In the tech start-up world, there’s a really popular book called The Lean Start-Up, which defines a beta program as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the process of using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. While it started with software products, the concept quickly spread to other industries.

This is Silicon Valley’s version of evolution – you build something, measure how it does based on feedback from the marketplace, learn from that, and then rebuild (you know it as version 1.0, 2.0, etc). And it’s very accepted in the tech world that version 2.0 is generally going to be better than version 1.0 (which doesn’t make 1.0 not work doing).

But this is nothing new really… a plant or animal species grows, attempts to survive, adapts to environmental conditions, and evolves over time.

Look, it’s going to happen anyways: The first time you offer something, it’s probably not going to be as good as the 10th time you offer it. So why not own this reality and take advantage of it instead of uncomfortably trying to act like you already know everything (or attempt to know everything) when you don’t?

Here are some questions to help you apply this concept to your work if you’re trying to move away from the “all at once” approach:

  • What is the pared down or bare bones version of my epic program?
  • What elements can I leave out that will make it easier for me to just get it out there now but would not sacrifice the goals of the program?
  • Can I test out a program one-on-one before offering it to a group?
  • Can I teach my course live before attempting to package it up into an online course (a must-do if you ask me)?
  • Can I teach a half-day version instead of an 8-week course?
  • Can I use a cheap or free venue to host my event? Or do something non-residential before planning a big retreat?
  • Can I offer a free or low-cost call or class, or even write a blog post, to assess interest in a more robust program?
  • Do I need to do it via webinar (or other unfamiliar technology) or can I simply use a free conference call line?
  • Could I design an information product myself instead of hiring a graphic designer?
  • Can I do it without a fancy website or sales page and have sales conversations instead?

What Happens When You Don’t Beta Test Your Programs

When you don’t beta test, you run the risk of creating an “epic” program that your target market doesn’t even need, potentially wasting a lot of time and money when people don’t sign up. You know, the Crickets Effect.

But worse than crickets or pretending you’ve got it all figured out, there’s the more likely possibility mentioned earlier, that if you don’t put out a beta version, you won’t put anything out . . .

Because you are waiting for perfection.

First off, let’s just send that little perfection monster on vacation for a while (actually, forever). Cycles need to move. And while clarity is very important, we have to be careful not to get stuck in vision and planning mode.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is trying to figure it all out in advance – to make their offering absolutely perfect – before they put it out there.

Well I’m here to say:

Forget your perfect offering (thank you, Leonard Cohen).

Which takes courage by the way.

Because while the reality is that nothing’s ever going to be perfect, when you’re in beta mode, things are inherently even more imperfect (that’s the whole point).

But “successful entrepreneurs” don’t generally like being seen as less than perfect, so this means you’ll need to muster up some courage to put your work out there anyways.

And frankly, this is what building a purposeful business is all about.

Just doing it anyways even if you’re not quite ready.

Because you will learn way more about how to successfully grow your business by actually doing your work and getting direct market feedback that you will from me or any other business or marketing consultant out there, or from simply planning and thinking and doing market surveys.

So how about trying a beta version?

Tune in next week for 5 Specific Ways Beta Programs Help You Grow Your Business Naturally