SAS #002: 4 Rules to Avoid Making Bad Startup Decisions

Here’s how to avoid making bad startup decisions.

If you get this right, you’ll avoid heartache.

And you’ll be more likely to be successful.

Unfortunately, most people get this completely wrong, which leads to bad decision making.

If I could help people remember one thing about creating companies it would be this.

Most startups fail because they build products people don’t want.

Seems obvious but the dopamine hit you get from thinking you’re right is hard to resist.

Other reasons they make bad decisions and fail:

  1. They fall in love with their own ideas (similar)

  2. They pride themselves on being right vs. making good decision making

  3. They go after too many targets at once

  4. They fail to understand the difference between a business vs. a fun project

At the end they’re surprised no one wants to buy their product.


I’m going to help you avoid all these pitfalls and 100x your chances of success.

Rule #1: You're not special, your customers are.

If you make something a small group of people love, you 10x your chances of being successful.

If you fall in love with your own ideas, you’ll make something you think is cool... rather than something other people will pay for.

  • Exception: If you are the ideal customer, you can use your own pain points to build something people want.

Either way focus on your customers.

Rule #2: Pride yourself on making good decisions. Not on being right.

If you make good decisions you increase your chances of success.

If you make decisions because you want to be right, you’ll do things that feed your ego.

If I pride myself on being right, I might build something even if none of my customers want it, just because I want to feel smart and right. If I pride myself on making good decisions, I will get excited about switching my focus to something that will help my users. You should feel better about making good decisions compared to wanting about being right.

Rule #3: Focus on 1-2 targets. Splitting your focus is a great way to lose.

You don’t need 100 amazing features for your product or business to be successful. The most impressive companies start out doing 1-2 things very well. It's only after they’ve built a customer base, and focused on what matters to them that new features come to life. Don't take 20 steps in 20 directions. Take 20 steps in one direction.

Rule #4: A business solves an important problem that real people will pay for.

Building things for fun is awesome. It is energizing and makes us feel good. Exploring is super important. But, a good business delivers significant value to its customers. People love what you do so much they take their wallets out of their pockets and give you money. So, when it comes time to build a business make sure you focus on delivering value.

  • Exception: Having fun is a great way to discover business ideas. And it’s fine to stay in this zone until you find something to turn into a business. The caveat is once you decide on building a business you need to do things for you customers. There is a spectrum of (project) ←→ (business) that is important to be aware of. I’ve seen people think they’re building a business when they are tinkering on a project. You need to talk to customers, understand them and build something they love and want to pay for.

BONUS: Strategies for getting around these problems:

  1. Use the “maybe later” strategy when you have an idea that will distract you from your main focus. “Maybe later” means, yes it is a good idea, but we should think about it later. This will make you feel better putting it aside for now.

  2. Get clear on what you’re optimizing for. Is it having fun tinkering on a project? Or, building a business? Or a little of both. If you answer this question it will help guide what kind of behaviors you should take to achieve that goal.

  3. Be passionate about the problem you want to solve and the type of customers you want to help. That way you can stay focused long enough to build something that people want.

There are exceptions to these rules. But they will give you guidance on how to build something meaningful. I wish you the best of luck in building your business.

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