Lessons Learned: Under Promise, Over Deliver

As the clock struck midnight tonight, a vision was officially only that; GreenhornConnect failed to relaunch as planned on Monday.  A series of technical difficulties left us unable to put the site up for you to see in all its glory.  We’d been planning this launch, in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, for a few weeks and had worked tirelessly to get all of the resources and content in order and start lining up our guest bloggers.  After many Monster energy drinks and little sleep, it was a thrilling, but ultimately draining experience.  We’re now inching close to the actual launch, but I wanted to hit on a few lessons I learned over the last 48 hours:

1) Nothing…I repeat…Nothing ever goes as Planned

If there’s any complexity to a problem, there will be hiccups. And usually, those hiccups will come where you assumed a task would be quick and easy.  We’re all very good at recognizing the big, time consuming tasks we face. Most of us can even budget relatively well how to get them done and project when that will be.  BUT, the problem is, those other things, the stuff we assume will be easy are not budgeted for and not planned for and so it is these problems that derail us.

Why is that, you ask? Well, it’s really simple, actually.  The more experienced and knowledgeable you are about something, the better you understand it. Those big, time consuming tasks, chances are you’ve done them before, so that’s why you can budget them so well.  But those other things…they’re probably something you haven’t done very much of; maybe it’s something you’ve done once in a different way, or it’s a new technique that should make your life easier. Regardless of the reason, it’s the stuff you don’t know that will hurt you.

So what’s the takeaway here?

Leave yourself a cushion for those hiccups to take time to be resolved and try to ask yourself what steps you’re taking for granted.

2) Over Promise, Under Deliver…err….Under Promise, Over Deliver

When you’re a young entrepreneur, you have to build your reputation from scratch. Everything you do is a small token that adds up to credibility and people believing in you.  Every time you do something good…whether it’s ask a good question at an event, impress someone with your knowledge in a conversation, follow through on a request by someone, etc, you’re adding another chip to the reputation pot. Unfortunately, when you do something bad…like don’t follow through on a promise, or offend someone or otherwise make yourself look bad, you lose many chips from the reputation pot.  Run out of chips and you’re in trouble.

So what am I getting at? If you do good things for awhile, you can get away with a mess up or two, but you still always need to be doing everything in your power to demonstrate your capabilities and why you’re not just another person who muses about being an entrepreneur versus someone who GTD (Gets Things Done).

In the case of the site relaunch, I feel like I really messed up. I promised to a lot of people we’d be relaunching Monday morning and that obviously didn’t happen. My problem was I got hung up on how awesome it would be if we did versus the reality of the fact that we had little margin for error to meet that date.  So, to anyone who went to GreenhornConnect.com on Monday and were disappointed to see the same old landing page and resource list, I apologize.  I hope you’ll check back today and see how far it’s come and join us on a journey to continue to develop and grow Greenhorn Connect.  I hope my enthusiasm and passion for this when we’ve met at events shows through in this and hopefully I have a few chips left in that pot.

So what’s the takeaway?

If you promise less than you know you can deliver, then you’ll wow people when you do more than that. (as opposed to disappoint them…)

3) Do Something You Truly Love

The last thing I want to hit on is the passion of entrepreneurship.  Regardless of what your venture is, you have to absolutely love it. It’s gotta be your passion.  Even as I saw one of my roommates going out with his girlfriend for the night as I stayed in to work on the site or as the other slept in while I got up to go to a conference, I never second guessed my choices. I love going to entrepreneurship events and solving this problem for new entrepreneurs.  If I didn’t love this, there’s no way I’d want to do all the behind the scenes labors that go into making a site like Greenhorn a reality. Motivations of profit are always good and a necessary part of business, but cannot trump passion when you’re starting a business.

When you’re searching for ideas for a startup, remember to look for things you love and problems that relate to them. Solve those problems.  Kabir loves music, which led to RiotVineFan Bi loves fashion, so he started Blank Label.  Matt Webster loves craft beer, so he’s running Drink A Better Brew.

GreenhornConnect is my passion and I’m going to try to exceed all expectations and promises from now on. What’s yours?

11 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: Under Promise, Over Deliver

  1. Jason Evanish,

    Nice observations. Reflection and introspection is essential in becoming exceptional and as you point out, passion is key to success.

    Regarding execution, my position is that we should set high expectations and over deliver on them – this will push you further than ever anticipated.


    Alexandre Boudreau

  2. Alex,

    Thanks for reading. I totally agree on the execution comment. I didn’t intend to say that you should set a low bar; rather, you should set a high bar, but leave yourself enough room for things to still work out even if they don’t go perfectly.

    Just read your blog: http://alexandreboudreau.com/2009/11/15/6-things-not-to-do-when-starting-a-business-%E2%80%93-part-1/ Looks like we’re thinking about a lot of the same stuff.


  3. Hey Jason, Great article…you are so right that people need to be passionate about what they pursue in entrepreneurship. One of the reasons I am an (internet) entrepreneur is because I am able to do what I love. It is so rewarding and because I love it I want to do it (which inspires me to do my best work). But great article. Keep it up.

  4. Steve,

    Thanks for reading. Despite reading for years and getting a master’s degree in entrepreneurship, I still had plenty of surprises and many lessons to learn for actually launching a business.

    With my company blog now up, I’m going to be focusing on these types of introspective entries. I hope they can continue to be interesting, relevant or helpful to others.


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  6. This reminds me how one of my first bosses had a number of mini “lessons.” I remember two, one of which apples here. “Under commit. Over perform.” (The other? “Do it now.”) Des.

  7. Des,

    Both of those are good insights. The latter is especially true, as I’ve found that if there’s something little you can do, you can either do it right away or there’s a great chance it will get lost in the shuffle and never get done.


  8. Found this post when doing some research for myself. Good advice, but I think the ability to “under-deliver” is not always an option.

    This is especially true when another person (like a salesperson or marketing team) has set the expectation for you.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right that you can only be totally sure about yourself, but that’s part of leadership; you have to account for who you’re working with and whether they’ll deliver. You have to instill the same sense of urgency and ability to reasonably estimate delivery dates.

      I always ask engineers I work with to “manage my expectations” so I know what they’re likelihood of meeting deadlines are.

      Good Luck,

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