Waiting until perfect means you miss out on great.
I have a consulting client that I’ve been talking to for months.
Well, they are not technically a client right now.
It is a company that I have worked with in the past. A small startup with limited funds. A great group of people. Who definitely need help.
Because of their limited funds, they are very concerned with how to spend them. As a finance person, I understand and respect this. It’s a very responsible approach to business.
Yet, their prudence is slipping away from thoughtful and into detrimental. They first reached out to me in October. They had a specific need. I have experience. We’ve worked well together in the past. There was a flurry of emails, a few phone calls. They needed to make sure there was enough room in their budget for my fee (not cheap). Great.
About a week of silence passed. And then another round of emails, and questions. Then the holidays hit, and they told me I was still on the radar but they were busy. Then right after the first of the year, they started to feel the panic that many biotech companies feel before one of our industry’s biggest conferences, which happened January 7–10.
Part of my work with them was to help create an investor presentation. They are starting a Series A fundraising round and need help telling their story.
They planned to go to the conference. But didn’t want to set meetings until they had a tight story to tell to investors when they reached out. So they didn’t reach out to investors until after January 1. Which meant that all the key investors were way, way overbooked.
Plus, they still didn’t have a full investor presentation. Or a hotel room. (Anyone who has been to the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco knows how expensive it is to book a last minute room).
They were reaching alarm levels. They emailed me and asked if I could put a presentation together for them in a few days. I told them that unfortunately, I could not.
So they ended up not going to the conference at all.
And today? They still haven’t decided to hire me for a full engagement. And they still don’t have an investor presentation, although they are “getting closer.”
They chose not to spend money on my fee back in October. And as a result they were not able to start their Series A fundraising round in January. Which means the company is at risk of running out of funds and going under all together.
Why do we do this? We know we have to make a decision, we know we have to choose one thing or the other. Yet we think, we research, we ask, way past the point of diminishing returns.
We want perfect. We want certainty. And anything less is too scary to contemplate, like stepping off a cliff into an abyss.
Here are three thoughts to consider, in favor of choosing great over perfect.
Waiting for the perfect choice means you could miss the great one
If I were to guess who this company is waiting to hire for the project. It would be someone who has years of experience, will charge them almost nothing, and will create a presentation that is guaranteed to raise millions of dollars.
That does sound perfect, doesn’t it?
But when you read what I listed out above. When it’s not a choice that you are invested in, but someone else’s choice, does that sound realistic?
What did they gave up, while waiting for that perfect scenario,? The opportunity to pay a realistic fee for a pretty damn good presentation and the ability to meet with investors. Which they desperately need.
By making no choice, they chose the worst of all the actual, available options.And will lose more money than they saved by not hiring me.
They missed out on an option that wasn’t perfect, but would have been a whole lot better than nothing at all.
In the brilliant book The Worry Cure by Robert Leahy, PhD, he sums it up:
If you demand perfection in your decision making, then you will refuse to take a risk on anything…however the risk of never taking any risks is that you forfeit opportunities for growth. Regret is inescapable. But if you never make decisions…your regret will be even greater, because spending your life worrying is a waste of time.
You will never know the outcome no matter how much you think about the decision
For a lot of us, we want to know exactly how things will turn out after we make the choice. We want to control and anticipate any tiny turn in the road.
So we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t pick the perfect thing. Or if the choice creates an unintended consequence. Or generally doesn’t turn out exactly like we hope and expect.
So we consume, we ponder, we think. But we don’t choose.
But the truth is, no matter how much time we spend thinking about the outcome. We will never know what happens until we actually make the choice.
It is possible that the company could pay my fee and still get no leads for their Series A. One scenario is that my fee is a waste of money.
It is also possible that I put something together for them that doesn’t resonate with 90% of the people they meet, but hits home for 2 or 3. And that leads them down a long, winding road toward funding.
Or, 10 other scenarios could play out. Situations that none of us could expect. But none of them did. Because they have had no meetings at all. Because the company chose not to choose.
When you have to pick something that isn’t perfect, all you need is to like the reason for your choice
Here’s the other piece. Everyone fears judgement. That other people will judge our choice. Find it lacking, or foolish, or unprofessional, or just plain dumb.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. No one is thinking about you as much as you think. They are worried about themselves. The same holds true with companies and investors.
This company is so concerned about appearing 100% professional and appealing to all investors. The result of that concern is that they take no position and don’t talk to any investors at all.
So instead of worrying about how other people will judge their choice. The way they choose to tell their story, present their vision. The company should come to terms with their own rationale. Have confidence in the story they choose to tell. And know that the choice makes sense to them. Present a story about the company they want to build. The future that makes the most sense to their management team. And be open to who that attracts, and who it doesn’t.
That confidence is a great first step toward a positive outcome. And will bolster their confidence when it comes time to choose at the next inevitable fork in the road.
But, as the Wayne Gretzky quote says,
You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.