Penny wise and pound foolish.
Who hasn’t heard that expression before? Saving a penny today at the expense of a pound (the British equivalent of a dollar) tomorrow.
What occurred to me over the weekend is that startups are all about making choices between being penny wise versus pound foolish. From the minute you decide to create a product or service, these types of choices are presented daily.
Sometimes you have to make efforts now that will pay off in the future. Other times you just have to choose to do something the cheap, quick and dirty way knowing that you may have to pay more to clean that mess up in the future.
It can be a real struggle to make choices that you know are dooming you to future headaches. Each of these is a little debt that may have to be paid back one day. On the other hand, if you spend a bunch of time on something that isn’t worth it, then your startup may never survive until that magical future when those little IOUs come calling to be paid.
Of course, the whole thing is the art of knowing which to choose when.
Actually, it’s not that much of an art if your goals and strategy are clear. Clear objectives make many of the penny vs. pound choices clear as day.
Often I get bent out of shape over a penny vs. pound decision, but usually what helps me decide is getting a clear handle on our goals or strategy. In fact, often these types of conflicts are a result of unclear objectives.
When they happen, I find the most success when I take a few minutes to step back and consider the big picture. Typically, finding clarity in the path we’re headed leads to an easy decision about pennies vs. pounds.