American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg was famous for turning the simple into the mind-numbingly complex. He invented hysterically absurd systems for doing the simplest tasks. Take, for example, the “self-operating napkin”:
“The “Self-Operating Napkin” is activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin.”
Thirteen steps to wipe your mouth. Pretty ridiculous, huh?
Still, you’d be surprised by how many entrepreneurs fall victim to something similar. They think that by implementing a complex, detailed strategy, they’re moving toward success. They think a successful business needs to be a more intricate one.
But more moving parts do not necessarily make a business better. In fact, adding more and more complexity makes accomplishing your goals more challenging, more time-consuming, and more resource-draining.
Albert Einstein once said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
The flip side of that your business should be as complex as it needs to be – but no more. In fact, the simpler your strategies at the outset, the better. I’ll explain why in just a minute.
The Allure of the Complex
Have you ever been to a magic shop? The guy behind the counter will invariably show you a trick. It’ll amaze you. Astound you! You absolutely have to know how it’s done. So you buy it and drive home, all the while thinking how incredible the illusion is and how cool it’ll be to wow your friends.
But when you get home and pull out the instructions, you discover how simple the trick really is. You think to yourself, “How in the world could this fool anybody?”
But it fooled you at the magic shop.
In business, as with magic tricks, complexity is all about tactics – “How” to execute a strategy. And tactics must always be secondary. You must understand “What” you’re trying to do before “How.”
When you’re considering a strategy to implement, the key is to start out as simply as possible. Ask yourself, “What’s the easiest, fastest, cheapest, simplest way to know if this project is even worth pursuing in the first place?
The Dangers of Adding vs. Subtracting
When you fall in the love with the complex, you run the risk of spending more time learning than earning. Building knowledge instead of your business. Analyzing instead of taking action. It means more work, more hours spent strategizing and developing, and making less progress toward your goal. No matter how much efficiency you think it may add, no matter how much you may think it saves you, complexity always adds to your bottom line costs.
The more complex things are in your business, the more sluggish you are at getting things done. When you work on your own, you can usually get things done relatively quickly. The bigger your organization, the more people you have to wait for before moving forward. It’s not necessarily bad, but it is reality.
And there’s another threat. When you focus obsessively on creating a bigger and more complex system, you naturally shift your focus from your goal to the path to achieve it. You start focusing on the “How” instead of the “What.” It misdirects all your efforts and resources.
That undermines your business at every level. How can you possibly achieve a goal when your efforts aren’t directed toward it? When you’re obsession becomes building a massive system instead of a massively profitable business?
The bottom line here is that building a successful business is all about speed. Speed to create products, speed to get them to market, speed to get feedback and analyze results, and then – and only then – the speed to leverage what’s working into a profit center.
Complexity kills speed.
Are You in Love With the Complex?
Ask yourself this:
“In an effort to make my business more productive, am I more likely to add more steps or options to it or am I more likely to strip something out of it?”
Most people will likely answer “add” to that question. For one simple reason. It’s far easier to add than it is to take away.
Take a hard look at the actions you’ve taken in the past. Beyond the start-up, how big has your business grown? Not in terms of revenue and customers but in terms of tasks and workload.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find your answer right there.
It’s counterintuitive, but many entrepreneurs have the delusion that the bigger, the more complex a business is, the more successful it is.
But the more complex anything is… the more complex it is. Period. More complex does not mean better. What more complex does mean is more demanding.
In a nutshell, complexity slows your progress, and progress is far more important than perfection.
How to Break That Dangerous Attraction
Fixing the problem starts with asking yourself two questions whenever you’re considering a new project.
Question #1: What is the absolute minimum I need to achieve my goals with this project?
Be thorough. Include everything that applies. Things like “product development” and “marketing and lead generation” and “conversion and fulfillment.”
Question #2: “How can I offer my prospects a ‘duct-taped’ version first?”
You don’t want to roll out a slick, polished product only to watch it fail. So what can you “duct tape” together first? What’s the minimum you can give your prospects that will deliver your message and bring you solid, quantifiable feedback?
By focusing your efforts in this way, you’ll see a vast improvement in the performance of your business – no matter what level it’s at.
If you’re working on your own, you’ll be more productive and have more time for other business-building projects. If you’re working with a team, you’ll find they become more productive as well. Efficiency goes up and costs go down as you eliminate the unnecessary actions you were previously supporting.[Ed. Note: Rich Schefren, founder of Strategic Profits, is offering a new course for struggling online entrepreneurs. It outlines the same strategies that his first 25 coaching clients used to bring in a total of $142 million in two years. And Rich used those strategies himself to bring in $7 million in sales at Strategic Profits – in just 18 months.
There are only 100 FREE spots available for this online course, “7 Steps That Quickly Create Online Businesses With Unstoppable Income.” So register now.]