There are many important lessons I’ve learned about building a company. Some of them I learned at mHelpDesk. Some I learned while building my previous companies Screameleons, StartAGroupBuy, and GotoGroupBuy. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned were taught to me as a child. Regardless of the origin, I want to share a few basic lessons I learned that will hopefully help those who are just getting started or those who are on their way to future success with their companies. Today we’ll go over Lesson 1: Don’t Overthink Things.
Lesson 1: Don’t Overthink Things
Overthinking things can be crippling to almost any business of any size. It may sound reckless, but I believe a lot of my wins in life were a result of having a “shoot first, aim later” mentality. On the same note, this mentality is also responsible for a lot of my losses as well. However, I believe that’s okay, because it’s all about successfully FAILING FAST. I learned this lesson as a child while learning how to ride a bicycle. When kids learn how to ride a bike, they typically use one of two methods – the slow method of using training wheels that might take weeks, or the faster ‘learn as you go’ method that took me less than an hour.
I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old when my uncle taught me how to ride a bicycle. He took me to the top of the hill at my elementary school. With no hesitation, no training wheels, and a slight push, I made it all of the way to the bottom on my first try. I couldn’t have been more excited on the way down!
Of course, when the hill bottomed out, I crashed head over heels (I still have the scars to prove it). When you start heading downhill on a bike, you have no choice but to figure it out — that is why the strategy works. Although I left a little beaten up, I returned home with the ability to ride a bicycle in less than an hour. The ability to turbocharge my path to a win has been due to this simple way of thinking.
The dangers of overthinking — paralysis by analysis
The more you think about “if” you should do something and “how” you’re going to do it, the more you’ll talk yourself out of doing it. This often holds people back from actually “doing” something. Suddenly, inaction starts to make a lot of sense.
The first company I built, which I consider a successful company, was called Screameleons. It was an ecommerce site that sold chameleons. Yes, the small lizards that changed colors.
I remember telling my family that I wanted to start a chameleon business. My uncle looked at me like I was crazy and told me to focus on my career as a software developer. It was great advice, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the risks he brought to my attention. My mother, who always gave me unwavering support, said to me “you’ll make a great chameleon breeder!” Without overthinking I just started the business.
At the time, I knew nothing about breeding chameleons. I didn’t know how to the hatch eggs or how to breed them. I bought my pet male chameleon a girlfriend, and a couple weeks later, she laid eggs. I was super excited but quickly realized I had no idea what to do with the eggs. I put them in a plastic container and stored them above my fish tank. Sadly, mold started growing on the eggs and they all died.
The second time I had a clutch of eggs, I reduced the moisture, since I equated moisture to molding. However, I reduced the moisture too much and they dried up and died. This wiped out months of work. Again…
When the third time came around, my excitement levels had diminished. I added a little more moisture than the last time, and threw them in my snowboarding closet. A few months later, I came home from a snowboarding trip, and as I tossed my board into the closet, I saw a tiny baby chameleon clinging to the side of the plastic container. This was my “aha” moment.
I replicated the conditions in my closet and built a walk-in incubator. Over the course of several years, I produced thousands of chameleons. When I started producing more chameleons, I obtained a constant supply of “product”. However, I had no idea how to sell them. Like the start of this journey, there was no plan, but I had confidence that I could figure it out. I bought a bunch of marketing books and learned about Adwords marketing and organic SEO. I learned how to build an ecommerce website and eventually became the #1 online retailer for chameleons. Why am I telling the story? Because I didn’t spend a whole lot of time overthinking and talking myself out of starting this great journey. I just did it with the confidence knowing that I could figure it out along the way.
My roots with mHelpDesk follows pretty much the same storyline. I had plateaued with the chameleon business and knew I needed something else. Without much thinking I created a vanilla help desk program with no clear plan on how it should work or how I was going to go to market with it. However, as soon as I got my first customer I spent a significant time talking to her to figure out where I needed to go with it. In fact, I spoke to every single customer to figure out how to create a great product and provide a great service. I obtained both positive and negative feedback, implemented new features, tightened up existing features, and repeated this over and over (and over). Fast forward to today, and mHelpDesk is a full-blown service management solution. We have thousands of customers from home contractors, HVAC services, information technology services, carpet cleaning services, maid services, security installers, to garage door services, you name it — If someone is in the business of offering a specialized service, we have the perfect software solution to help them manage their business. As of this writing, we have 58 full-time employees from research, development, sales, support, and marketing. We are currently the highest reviewed and highest rated #1 software solution on SoftwareAdvice, Capterra, and HomeAdvisor to name a few.
The moral of the story?
All this was built without overthinking things. Don’t talk yourself out of doing something great. When you overthink things, you’ll rationalize “inaction” and suddenly doing nothing makes a lot of sense. Don’t be a victim to that. Learn how to successfully fail fast. Roll with the punches — There is no such thing as a perfect plan, and your business was never meant to go smoothly.
Last modified: November 28, 2016