New Opportunities

Early stage startups are busy. It’s not difficult to fill your schedule each day. I’ve talked on this blog before about saying “no” to some of those things and clearing your schedule to focus. Clearing space to think and create.

But this doesn’t mean you should completely cut yourself off. Thinking and brainstorming alone can only get you so far. You need other inputs. You need to read things. You need to meet with new people. You need to learn about other businesses and emerging technologies.

Doing this opens you and your business up to new opportunities. Keeping pace with competitors isn’t enough. You need to innovate. You need to create new efficiencies. You need to find ways to provide value to customers.

You do that by taking yourself out of the industry and out of the assumptions of the incumbents. Learn from the outside and innovate on the inside. Above all, put your customers first and provide them with a great experience.

The Power of Deadlines

I learned the power of deadlines when I was beginning my career as a product manager. A core responsibility of a PM is to ship product. It seems obvious but it’s easier said than done.

Shipping earlier means getting value to your customers and learning faster. Beyond that, setting a release date provides a deadline for the team. This deadline acts as a forcing function. The constraint of time forces you to focus on the task at hand, rank what’s most important, and cut what’s not.

I’m seeing this now with a big project we’re working on at Moved. Not only are we shipping new product but we’re making big changes to the way we operate internally. The project involves everyone in the company, making communication and coordination essential. Each person has their role and we’re all focused on getting to the finish line. Even after the “finish line” (launch) there’s a lot of work to make sure all goes well into the future.

Deadlines can be stressful but they can also create moments of magic. Seeing everyone rally and execute in crunch time is a thing of beauty.

There’s more work to do but it’s useful to take a step back and appreciate the big moments as they’re happening. Thanks to this blog for allowing me a few minutes to do that. Now back to work.

Do You Shovel or Do You Wait?

After yesterday’s snow day, I noticed something during my commute home. Some businesses had their sidewalk shoveled, while others didn’t. A gesture like this, although minor, tells you a lot about a business. About how they operate and treat their customers.

In the world I live in (software startups), the snow is harder to see. But have no doubt — every business has snow at their storefront. Issues arise and impact the customer’s experience.

When your customers run into an issue that wasn’t cause by you (the business), how do you respond? Do you go out of your way to make it right? To clear a path and make sure their experience is positive? Or do you throw up your hands and force the customer to deal with it?

Hospitality is hard work. Putting customers first isn’t always easy. But it is the right path. Customers notice when businesses go out of their way to provide a great experience. And they express gratitude for that through loyalty and referrals.

Don’t wait for the sun to melt the snow. Shovel, shovel, shovel.

Deliver On Your Bullshit

A lot of people are focused on bullshit.

And don’t misunderstand — the bullshit matters.

That pitch you gave. The awesome perks and culture you promise recruits.That edgy marketing copy you put on your Product Hunt post. All different forms of bullshit.

FYI — Lysol won’t help

FYI — Lysol won’t help

Bullshit creates expectations, and that’s why it matters.

You need to deliver. Or better yet, over-deliver.

Promise users X and Y? They better be there when a user tries your product. Plus feature Z as a cherry on top.

Good bullshit with no delivery will lead to awesome surface-level metrics, with no real substance behind them.

Don’t get lost in the number of hits, downloads, or registrations there are. Look deeper down the funnel. How many of those people actually stayed and used the product? How many would recommend it to a friend?

There is an enormous amount of money spent marketing shitty products.Pump the brakes and focus on what really matters— the value you provide to people.

Things a startup should not do

Things a startup should not do

Nobody cares that your Facebook ad has a 40% conversion rate if no users stick around after clicking. It means you have a pretty picture and some good bullshit… and nothing to back it up.

For those who use and like your product: Ask them what they like and why they like it. Optimize on things that are working.

Then flip it and ask all the people who dropped or became inactive what they didn’t like. What turned them off? Why didn’t they come back?

You were able to draw them in, but there was something you didn’t deliver on. What was it?

Deliver. On. Your. Bullshit.

If you don’t, you’ll churn and burn. If you do, you’ll learn and earn.