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Perfectionism Purgatory

The other day I was coaching one of our Referral Partner Blueprint Workshops, and the member made the observation that I was a "perpetual experimenter.” To her, it seemed like I was always willing to fail.

It was an interesting observation that got me thinking. It wasn’t something I embraced early on in my entrepreneurial journey. But what was behind my now very comfortable place of getting things wrong? Because in the past, perfectionism paralyzed me.

I realized I learned that striving for perfectionism in a vacuum simply made me create ironically imperfect things.

In business, the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is essential. An MVP is a version of a new product or service you use to collect the maximum amount of learning with the least amount of effort. But to do an MVP, you have to be ok with imperfection and learning how to fail forward. Why? Because it’s based on too many assumptions.

Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners get stuck in perfectionism purgatory. Not only in new products or services but in almost everything they do. I’m a perpetual learner and a trainer told me once, “Done and out the door is better than perfect behind a closed one.”

I see this perfectionism in my members as we uncover and discover the right professionals that will refer them consistently. Since we do a lot of work around focus and being targeted to maximize the use of their time, it has the unintended consequence of them feeling they have to get it perfect out of the gate.

I get a lot of, “What if the person I’m talking to isn’t the right fit? How do I know?” To which I respond, “You regroup.”

I usually see the shoulders relax and the astonishment in their eyes as if all they needed was permission not to have the perfect conversation.

But what do an MVP and perfectionism have to do with a referral strategy?

An MVP still requires work. It doesn’t require perfection.

Sadly, most people don’t do the minimum essential to develop their version of an MVP for their referral network. So they end up having random networking conversations with no way of learning, refining, and worse, very little results.

It’s an opposite problem our members have who get paralyzed by wanting to have their referral network be perfect because they have been on the other side.

When our members create their Referral Partner Network of professionals who target the same decision-maker, we have them go through how to evaluate their conversations. They tweak their process based on every conversation they have because they learn something new with each exchange.

They meet. They learn. They tweak.

Rinse and repeat.

It’s fascinating to watch when they begin to realize some of their assumptions about a particular profession being a good referral source were dead wrong. It also makes me cringe thinking back to all of the empty networking conversations I’ve had throughout my 17+ years as an entrepreneur.

So here’s my advice.

Start with minimal viable assumptions. Have a process to learn. Have a method to evaluate. Have a strategy to be better next time.

I have realized over the years that anything I work on will always be a work in progress.

I’m always experimenting and testing to create the best networking experience for my members possible. We don’t have a culture of stagnation.

It makes it easier to ask my members to go out there and simply try because they see me willing to try. We give ourselves permission not to be perfect.

I would love to know what assumptions you have made about your referral network that weren’t quite perfect and maybe even surprised you.


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