Startup Inspirations: Quality vs. Speed

Let’s flash back to college for a moment: Remember those nights spent cranking out a 20 page thesis paper, caffeinated at an uncomfortable level and munching on popcorn as you fumble on the last few words of your paper? In those moments you dedicated your 100% attention, put all your knowledge and opinions into the writing and work to get it out as quickly but efficiently as possible.

Now think back to those semester long projects you had. On day one you form a team of four, devise a product concept and spend all semester relentlessly polishing up your pitch, creating your promotional strategy and calculating the metrics to determine when you’ll become cash-positive. Three months later, the moment of truth comes when you present your final product to your entire class for grading. Phewf!

So let’s say you put all your effort into that thesis paper. It may not have been as articulate or grammatically correct as you could have wished, but you put everything you had into it, devoted 100% of your focus and cranked it out in time. You got a B on it. Flash forward to the end of the semester and you find out you got a B+ on the project.

Which was the best use of time? Which was best for your future? Which got the adequate job done? Which do you feel more proud of? Based both on your personal preferences and even company initiatives, the answers to the above could vary and preferences to the two scenarios could be very different. However, there is a strong correlation here to these two scenarios and how you get stuff done (GSD, if you will) at your company.

quality vs speedAt startups in particular, time is everything. Resources are short. And getting an MVP out in time is critical. Many times, you don’t have months upon months to carefully craft the perfect marketing project or to polish up an astonishing application. (That can be done later). When time and resources are everything, sometimes you have to suffer quality to achieve speed but at other times, speed for quality.

For example, at Backupify, we have a fairly small marketing team so we don’t have the bandwidth nor time to spend months perfecting eBooks, developing elaborate webinars or designing the most beautiful website. Instead, we focus on what the MVP needs to be to get the project done.

Example: Instead of taking a year to totally rip apart our website, conduct user interviews to craft the perfect UI and go through multiple design revisions, we spent 4 months closely honed in on our most important goals we needed to achieve out of a new website and kept pretty much on task with that. Now, is the website we have now ( the most ideal website for us? No, and it probably won’t be for a long time. However, it achieved several main goals we had for it (including increasing points of engagement, making CTA buttons more apparent and providing more resources to educate visitors) which is what we needed for the next 12-18 months.

Within the first month we already saw positive results pour in! More people were engaging, our bounce rate lowered, our SEO improved for many of the top terms we care about and more. It wasn’t perfect, but we achieved what we absolutely needed to and got it out in a shorter time period.

Startups are all about trade-offs. It’s challenging to figure out how to effectively channel your resources and spend your company time, but staying tightly focused on doing all you can to achieve your absolute most important goals at a given time is one of the most critical things you can team can. So when your team is faced with its next project, will you choose to crank out a thesis paper or carefully craft a product pitch?

(Note: I’ve done projects that have needed both strategies and have had success with each approach. This is all about what works for you and what your company goals are. Just make sure you’re not wasting time optimizing for meaningless things and instead focus on the big picture.)