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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Startups, Film Photography & Instant Gratification

As an enthusiast photographer, I've recently been fascinated with film photography. In the past 2 months, I've started using my Polaroid SX-70 & Canon FTb on more occasions (instead of relying on my DSLR or iPhone to capture moments).

The thing about both of these camera's are that they were produced in 1972 & 1971 respectively. The technology is old & not as streamlined or easy-to-use when compared to our digital alternatives today.

Playing around with these manual, film camera's though got me thinking about how that experience compares to digital photography, where we can take a photo and immediately see the results. Instant gratification.

This got me thinking about the way we run our businesses online these days. We're focused on iterating in the most agile & efficient way. We implement tweaks that aim for small, daily victories. We monitor our key metrics in real-time (and across multiple platforms) to make sure that we can react on-demand.

And when we implement a new decision, we want to see the result immediately. Instant gratification.

I think - as entrepreneurs and startup people - it's in our nature to not be satisfied by only seeing the cogs moving. We want to see the vehicle moving as well, because that's how we know that we've set the cogs up correctly.

But there's a contradiction & a flaw in that mindset for me: most things that I can implement in my business today, will only have an obvious / noticeable effect much later. I think that the requirements for building a company that can scale & be sustainable in the long-term, means you're sometimes making decisions in the blind, with no immediate validation of whether that decision is the correct one.

Maybe it's a case of building a business based on your gut-feel & intuition.

For me that experience relates exactly to taking a photo on a film camera. I need to trust that my theoretical knowledge (in terms of manually controlling the exposure, aperture & focus of the camera) & intuition ("Will this subject and the composition thereof make a good photo?") will result in a great photo. There's no way for me to take a photo, see the result immediately, iterate on my assumptions / actions & take a new photo. Rinse & repeat.

Building a great business strategy is about vaguely knowing in which general direction you need to move to build a long-term sustainable business. That general direction will move a few ticks left and then a few ticks right on a daily / weekly / monthly basis, but unless your pivoting completely, the general direction stays the same.

No amount of instant gratification & short-term validation will unfortunately make you feel less insecure about whether your business will come out well on the other side.

So when building your business, trust in your knowledge (of the problem you're solving / your business / customers / industry), your passion for your solution and your intuition of pursuing your long-term vision successfully.

Snap.

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