Building products before you identify what you stand for, is a mistake.
I’m really a big fan of ‘Go, go, go !’. I believe that it’s better to get into action, with risk, as soon as possible. In my view, it is better to fix things on the move rather than get into ‘Paralysis Analysis’.
However, at this point, the point you have identified the product you are going to build, you should stop. This is not a full stop. It is though, one of the most important phases you go through when developing a product. That is to identify what your ‘company’ stands for. This means, you will identify the purpose of your business, your core values and beliefs and your medium term mission. I know this sounds a bit management mumbo-jumbo, but let me explain why this is really essential.
To understand why this is important it is useful to re-visit why you are creating a product in the first place. In general, providing a service to your customer will be easier and will be less expensive in the short term than a full product build. We know, the market has many systems integration and services companies that can deliver customer projects very well. In fact, most of our industry is just that.
So the reason why you are building a product is really to help you differentiate from these SI companies and allow you to compete and play in their geographies. Let me explain further. This first time I reached that conclusion was when was working for a business, which integrated accountancy packages on an open system platform in Scotland. For those of you who don’t know, Scotland is a small country both physically and economically. Very quickly, we reached a size where our expenses on a project could mean the difference between winning a project or losing it. For example, if I competed in a geography that was 200 miles from my office then I would have to pay for transport and accommodation. The local guy, who probably had similar day rates to myself, would be cheaper in terms of expenses and would argue that their more localized support was a great advantage. Therefore to compete with these companies you need to have something that the local provider does not have. One great way to do this, is to encapsulate your ideas into a product.
OK, your building a product to help you win more business in geographies you may not have been able to reach in the past. However, being able to explain why your product is fantastic is not enough you will have to convince customers, partners and new hires why they should work with you. Remember, if the market desires your product, it will create a ‘market’ and as such you should expect competitors. So your differential here will be your company.
More importantly than attracting more customers you need to have a clear identity to attract good talent. Good people will often sacrifice salary to work in a business they believe in. They will generally stay longer if they agree with your companies principles. They will certainly be happier if they are allowed to engage in the conversations regarding the direction of the business. Understanding where you start from and what your principles are, become very powerful drivers of success.
A geat book, that really helped me move my business to the next stage, is "Beyond Entrepreneurship" by Collins and Lazier. In this book the guys describe (much better than I ever could) the importance of core values, purpose and mission. To me, this is like dynamite, if you embrace this and engage, your team your chances of success will be 10X. If you do follow the guidlines in the book you will (in my view) attract the best talent, build the best product and feel more fulfilled. In future articles I will discuss in more detail how to workshop your purpose, mission and core values. In the meantime, take a peek at the book !