August 17, 2022

Patience is the tax you pay for innovating


The question is not how good your idea is, but how patient you’re willing to be until the rest of the world realizes it’s good.

Particularly if you’re trying to do something innovative, adoption will almost certainly take longer than you want it to or think it will.

Despite your best efforts to launch big, go viral, come out of the gate fast and scale up immediately, the reality is, most startup growth is slow.

It’s not an event, it’s a process. It works because it drips.

Any short term sales driven acquisition activities might lead to a temporary bump in revenue, but the real value accrues over the longer period of time. The return on investment has a cumulative effect.

Compound interest builds on a brand’s constantly increasing assets, and then one day you pull your head up and go, oh wow, look at how far we’ve come since day one!

Growth is a game. It requires patience and a willingness to let go of the importance of glamorous immediate attribution metrics like traffic, sales, number of users, and so on.

Graham, who’s legendary startup incubator launched thousands of successful companies, writes about this practice of patience in his popular blog. Paul says:

Founders think what they’re building is so great that everyone who hears about it will immediately sign up. And it would be so much less work if you could get users merely by broadcasting your existence, rather than recruiting them one at a time. But even if what you’re building really is great, getting users will always be a gradual process, partly because great things are usually also novel, but mainly because users have other things to think about.

What’s wonderful about his advice is, it suggests that in addition to patience, we also need empathy. Reminding ourselves that everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. They have dozens of important demands on their time, and so, if they don’t return our perfectly crafted product launch email within a few days or even a few weeks, that doesn’t mean our outreach was a flop.

It’s not a harbinger of our impending business failure.

Remember, a person’s inbox is the place where other people’s priorities live, not theirs. Our new product is not the only demand on their time right now.

Ultimately, hearing digital crickets is not necessarily a reflection of how good any idea is. It may just mean the creator needs to stick around until the world finally realizes it’s good.

Think about it this way. When was the last time impatience made anything in your business happen any faster?

Entrepreneurs have be willing to hustle while they wait, so that their product is even better and stronger by the time people finally check it out.

This capacity for delayed gratification, to launch projects that others would disregard within three months, is the difference maker. It’s frustrating, laborious and lonely.

But it’s the tax you pay for innovating.

Thankfully, you probably have a raging river of passion coursing through your veins, so that will buoy you until external fuel sources become available.

Have you accepted that getting users will always be a gradual process?