Perfectionism, clothed as a desire to perfect my work, cost me so much time, sleep, money and made me lose opportunities. Discover what that taught me in my new venture.
From the outside, most people view perfectionists as driven, focused people who are attentive to detail, but from the inside, it is always an uphill battle for a perfectionist.
I’ve always been a perfectionist, and one thing I can tell you about being an entrepreneur who is a perfectionist is that it is draining. No, really; it can suck the life out of you and leave you feeling exhausted when focusing on all the wrong things.
How do I know? Well, I was in these exact shoes a few years back. I am still not 100% out of the woods, but at least I have gotten to a point where I know my problem,and I’m taking measures to deal with it.
A few years back, I ran a web agency known as Pixelstart,where I built websites for clients. I loved my job and directly working for the clients, but then again, I was too much of a control freak and perfectionist. This ended up exhausting me as I picked on every nook and cranny of all the projects that I was working on.
For instance, I would develop many designs and develop different ideas, which took up a lot of my time and energy. When it came to development, I would include unnecessary details, and sometimes I forgot that the bottom line was making sure that I created functional websites.
It didn’t end there; perfectionism made it hard for me to hire freelancers and full-time staff because I nitpicked on things to the point where anyone I hired was just not good enough for me. The result was that I ended up having to do everything because I had set these unreasonable standards.
Looking back, I believe the experience was a good training ground for me to hire and manage people a lot better at my next business. So when I sold my business to build my own brand, the lessons I learned have been instrumental in making the business what it has become today.
The Birth of Stagent
There’s nothing better than building your own brand. When you do, you have the best opportunity to showcase your unique features and create something with a personal touch - you know, something that truly resonates with who you are and what you care about.
So, after selling Pixelstart, I started my own SaaS Company (Software as a Service) known as Stagent, which I now run. We offer artist management software that helps agencies and artists manage their bookings effectively, from performances, flights, hotel bookings, and much more. Because of this, I always feel that we have no room for errors because we basically help people manage their careers, and one slight mistake could lead to very debilitating results.
I learned from my earlier mistakes at Pixelstart that failing to hire and retain the right people would make it hard to grow the business to the scale I hoped to grow it.
As such, I’ve hired skilled professionals to whom I hand out work, so I don’t do all the work by myself, which lifted a huge load off me. The good thing is, they understand the kind of brand I am trying to create, and we work collaboratively to make this a reality.
This has been made possible through trial and error and just committing that I am not going back to my old ways of doing business. When I first started Stagent, I struggledwith perfectionism, but as time went by, I learned how to delegate to avoid taking on too much.
I am not yet perfect, though; I still have a weak spot for perfectionism, and I usually find myself setting way too high standards for my staff and me, and I try to do everything it takes to live up to those standards. However, I always try my best not to put undue pressure on my staff, and whenever I realize that this might be the case, I take control and bear the pressure myself. At least this way, I can let go of it myself because I usually know that my perfectionism is projecting itself at the moment.
The Depths of Perfectionism
When we began working on Stagent, it initially had 4 or 5 design iterations. You would think that this is a good thing,but the truth is, the designs focused more on looks rather than functionality which meant that I was putting in too much effort and time on utterly unnecessary things.
As you would imagine, the design ended up having too many duplications as I kept adding features thinking that they were necessary. I came to learn that these little details I focused on so much didn’t really mean anything to our beta users and that they really didn’t add anything substantial to our MVP.
I learned this the hard way – beta testers never gave any feedback that related to the many cool features I was spending so much time on. The bulk of their feedback revolved around the functionalities than design. This realization was a huge wake-up call as I started to focus on boosting functionality rather than looks.
The Struggle Continues
The thing about perfectionism is that you just can’t snap your fingers and stop being a perfectionist. It is something you let go of gradually as you learn lessons along the way that help you let go of control. And even if you succeed in letting go of some control, there is always that part of your perfectionist side that will always come out to play in certain circumstances.
I still struggle with perfectionism, even with the lessons I have learned along the way. For instance, when releasing new features, I take a lot of time making sure everything is perfect, which usually delays releases. The features may be perfectly functional, but I end up picking at the design,trying to improve it anywhere I can.
Perfectionism also holds you back from starting something, be it a book, website, new feature, or even doing the dishes! Sometimes I struggled to put my ideas into action as I kept nitpicking on my thoughts to make sure I got everything right and that everything would be perfect. So again, this slowed me down.
But I’ve learned to counter this habit by using one statement:
‘Functionality is key.’
My clients are always pleased by the functionality of our services, so I always remind myself that if I attain this,then we are good to go. But this doesn’t mean that I entirely ignore design; my perfectionism wouldn’t allow me anyway.
Lessons Learned About Perfectionism In Entrepreneurship
When you give power to something, only then can it control you- if you don’t give it power, then it won’t control you. Perfectionism was once my worst enemy, but I learned how to turn it around and make it work for me instead.
The secret here is to shift from the perfectionist mindset of ‘all-or-nothing’ and aim to get things done instead. Holding back new releases because they aren’t perfect yet is an excellent example of the ‘all or nothing mindset.’ So what I do instead is do the beta test with our MVP, and when our beta users like it, we move ahead, regardless of whether I think it is perfect or not. I always remember that we can make changes as time goes on- that’s the whole point of developing new versions and features.
One more thing that helped me let go of perfectionism is delegating, which can work for anyone in any industry. Having that feeling that you have to do something yourself or else it won’t get done well might be nagging, but you would be surprised at how good other people are if you give them a chance and train them effectively.
This saved me a lot of time and energy to develop my business in other areas effectively. For instance, at Stagent, we are currently working on making our platform available in iOS and Android to make managing bookings even more convenient and accessible. We are also trying to offer our clients API access which we will do in due time.
Being a perfectionist has its ups and downs, but if not kept in check, the downs can outweigh the ups and take a toll on you. I learned how to take control of my perfectionism, and now I use it sparingly to make sure that I provide all the essential tools to make my clients thrive while not over-exhausting myself.
Starting Stagent was possibly the best thing that I could have done for myself because I found something that I am genuinely passionate about, not to mention the growth that comes with developing your own brand. I also learned how to use something that I’ve struggled with all my life to my advantage; no more unproductive perfectionism!
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