Earlier this week, I was speaking with a few people at a breast cancer fund raising event at the San Diego Hard Rock. I was introduced to two budding entrepreneurs who had just launched a new music site geared towards helping bands market their services.
When I asked them to tell me a bit about what they do, they basically described their company as Twitter meets Facebook meets a record label meets iTunes. "We're going to be the next social media powerhouse," they told me. Best of all, they had launched 2 months ago and were getting "between 12 and 40 signups a day".
If there's anyone who believes in the power of positive thinking, it's me. Each day, I wake up and write my top 10 goals for the year. This is a habit I've done now for the past 20 years (I started early).
But, following someone else's business plan and setting their metrics as your own is a recipe for disaster. It makes your deviate from a well-planned strategy every time that your benchmark makes an announcement, and you'll find yourself chasing instead of leading. It seems that everyone wants to compare themselves to Twitter and Facebook when the reality is that these sites are an anomoly. They are not the rule. Part of it is luck, part of it is millions in funding, and part of it is a bunch of really smart guys with a clear strategy to execute against.
There is danger in trying to do too much right out of the gate. I've found that it's actually much better to scale back and focus on doing just one thing really, really well. Then, build on your success after you've proven that your customer is willing to pay you for something you're doing.
Image by CrunchBase
Seth Godin had a post this week entitled "A million blind squirrels" which covers this topic. He reminds bloggers that to benchmark the 1 in 10,000 blogger who happened to land a book deal by writing irrelevant content is not the best guy to model. It's worth a read.
In summary, understand that starting a business is a long-term proposition. There are quick exits, but they are rare and getting fewer in this economy. Focus on building a business that builds true value for your customers.