A dear friend of mine who is also in the early stages of starting a business to serve other business leaders, recently lamented with me about the frustrations of not fully knowing where we stand. You see we are both used to designing products. In product design you rarely get it all correct first time out of the shoot but you have the opportunity through testing to receive concrete feedback.
What separates a good designer from a great one?
This imperfect leader would argue that its not the number of prototypes before we reach success but the ability to increase the speed of each test cycle or iteration.
Here is where you as a small business have incredible leverage over your larger competition.
Back when I ran a small manufacturing company (<10M) I could draw a concept on my whiteboard, create a sketch on a piece of paper (or the occasional napkin) and walk it back to the machinist. This guy, let's call him Bob, could take a chunk of metal and turn the concept into reality. Magic, less than an hour later. With a dedicated test stand for prototyping, the pass/fail feedback could often be had in less than 2 hours.
Do you think they could do that in the larger "Billion" dollar competitor?
Granted they had data, equipment, and knowledge that I could only dream of, but a 2 hour test cycle? No way! The result? I designed a 10,000 psi valve and they private labeled someone else's. We hit 20%+ EBIT and they...well I have no idea.
So now that my friend and I are on the "lack of feedback island" - what is the imperfect insight?
Feedback is a gift, but the speed at which you get it is true wealth.
Consider how long it takes an idea in your organization to be tested. Is it shut down prematurely by an opinion? Can you as the leader remove barriers that slow your iterative cycle? Get more at bats per game and you're bound to hit a homerun!