Crawl, Walk, Run!

I am particularly fond of “Crawl, walk, run” as a motto.  The idea of taking baby steps until you know the ground under your feet is firm seems like a good one to me.  Especially in the world of a startup.

But throughout the history of business, certain phrases have been mis-used, misappropriated and generally abused, and “crawl walk run” is one of them.  

I was talking to a colleague the other day, and he said flat out that he hated the phrase.  It had been used repeatedly by people he knew to throw up roadblocks to prevent him from starting a business.  For him, it represented everything non-entrepreneurial in the business world.

Can’t start a business without a business plan.  Can’t write a good plan without an MBA.  Can’t get a good MBA without a strong undergrad performance etc etc etc.

As with all things, it’s relative.  And for me, it’s a motto I like to apply to the execution of specific strategies.  But just because I like it doesn’t mean I’m going to get bogged down in process or not be able to move quickly.

Some examples:

#1: Your company has never done a print ad before.  Do you:

(a) Do a small/inexpensive print ad and see how it performs
(b) Commit to a 6 month recurring campaign in a higher profile publication

(c) Commit to multiple publications and multiple ads 

My preference is to do (a), get some results, then do (b) and finally (c).  But I would try never to go straight to (b) or (c) unless there was a really good reason.  And there is almost never a good enough reason, despite how things may appear at the time.

This doesn’t mean you take a year to get a campaign in to gear, but it does mean you test out the path ahead before committing significant sums of money to the print campaign.

#2: You want to pursue some partnerships.  Do you:

(a) Start with a low profile partnership
(b) Start with many partnerships at once

(c) Go after your #1 target first 

I personally would begin with (a), at least while you start the conversations.  That way you can find out whether your fantastic opportunity actually resonates with a potential partner.  I recently started a discussion with a small potential partner, got some useful feedback and within two weeks was chasing a big dog.  That’s maybe a little fast, but there was a convenient alignment of the universe that would have been foolish to ignore.  However, without the groundwork and lessons learned in conversation with the smaller partner, I would have been poorly prepared for the big dog conversation.

For me, “crawl, walk, run” is always the way to go.  Even if you do it quickly.


1 comment for “Crawl, Walk, Run!

  1. June 26, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I think you missed the most popular option: lay there gurgling. I love startups because there isn't the opportunity to have a meeting, launch a study, form a comittee, write up a spec, or any of the other ways of avoiding taking any action. I feel a post coming on…

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