6 pitfalls of perfectionists

February 7, 2024

By far the most controversial Mayfly value is “Be Not Perfectionist”. Should we not be on the pursuit of making the perfect product, the perfect customer experience, the perfect sales funnel? The reality is perfect is impossible. There are platforms actively being maintained by hundreds of programmers, which simultaneously have thousands of bugs at any one time. This doesn’t mean launch before you are ready. It’s about finding the balance between re-writing your LinkedIn Post for the 20th time and launching an unusable MVP.

The reason why we made this a Mayfly value is we see founders often skew towards being a perfectionist to the point where it significantly impedes progress.

Here are 5 downside of being a perfectionist founder:

Paralysis by Analysis

Perfection leads to overthinking and excessive analysis. Founders who obsess over every detail before making a move can become mired in a never-ending cycle of decision-making. In a startup environment, quick decisions often lead to innovation and iteration, allowing the company to adapt to changes and capitalise on opportunities.

Resource Drain

Founders are often wearing the hats of multiple roles. Multiple roles = lots of work. More work = More time needed to go through your to-do list. Being a perfectionist can multiple the times it takes you to complete your tasks which means less get’s done. There is a law of diminishing returns here. You have spent 1 hour making a graphic for your website. Spending the next 2 hours improving the graphic may make it 10% better. What could you do in that 2 hours?

Fear of Failure

Perfectionists often have an intense fear of failure, as they associate any shortcomings with personal inadequacy. In the startup world, failure is not only common but can also be an invaluable source of learning. Embracing failure as a stepping stone to success is a fundamental principle for startup founders. Being too cautious due to perfectionism can prevent founders from taking calculated risks and experimenting with new ideas, which are essential for disruptive innovation.

Stifling Creativity and Collaboration

Perfectionism can create an environment where team members are afraid to share ideas or take risks. When the emphasis is on perfection, there's little room for experimentation and creative thinking. This stifles collaboration and limits the diverse perspectives that are crucial for solving complex problems. By fostering an atmosphere where mistakes are treated as opportunities for growth, founders can encourage innovation and create a culture of open communication

Mental Health and Burnout

The relentless pursuit of perfection can lead to burnout and negatively impact the mental health of startup founders. Long working hours, high stress levels, and the unending pressure to meet unrealistic standards can take a toll on well-being. Accepting that imperfections are a natural part of the startup journey can help founders manage their expectations and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Fast Company Executive Board - employee suffering burnout holds hand to head

Missed Opportunities for Learning

Startup success is built on a foundation of learning from mistakes and iterating quickly. Perfectionists tend to avoid situations where mistakes are likely to occur, missing out on valuable learning experiences. By embracing imperfection, founders can gain insights from failures, make informed adjustments, and ultimately refine their products and strategies more effectively.

Embracing imperfection does not mean compromising on quality or ambition. By fostering a culture of adaptability, learning, and calculated risk-taking, startup founders can navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship more effectively and increase their chances of long-term success. After all, it's the willingness to embrace imperfection that often leads to the most remarkable and transformative innovations.

Joe Young

Co-founder of Mayfly Ventures, Joe talks about #product-market-fit #GTM-Strategy #Capital-Raising.

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