At Appfluence, we have learned a lot about creating a company from scratch, and what makes a product useful to our customers. Here are a few pieces of information that we would like to share about how to prioritize tasks and make decisions as a small business owner/startup company founder.
Create and maintain a vision for your company to go in. This will help you to focus on what is important to you and what you want your company to become. Whenever faced with a big decision, think about whether or not it moves the company in a direction that is aligned with your goals. If it doesn’t, decide if your vision or actions need to be changed to make the company better.
Simplify your product offering. Having more features does not necessarily make a better product. Maintaining too many features can be very costly. For instance, fixing bugs for 20 different features is far more difficult than fixing bugs for 3 features. And when you consider that these features may need updating in the future, updating each additional one will be increasingly complex.
Cutting down on product offerings can make your company easier to understand and gives it a clear identity. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he changed the direction of the company entirely by ending work on several projects, including OpenDoc and Newton. Years later, we see how this simplification has given Apple its identity, of a company with only a few flagship products. Removing a product or feature will certainly cause some users to stop using your services/products or send you angry emails. That is why you have to exercise judgement to make the decisions that are right for your company.
Learn to say no
The customer is not always right. You cannot cave in to every customer’s demands. When you receive hundreds or thousands of comments about your product and suggestions for how it might be improved, you need to remember that you (hopefully) have done enough research to become an expert in the area that your company is dealing with, and may have insights into things that your customers just do not. Take every piece of input seriously, but know when to say no.
Feedback may provide valid arguments for, say, adding new features. However, these features may cause your company to stray from its original intent. For example, if you have a photo-sharing website and a user suggests that you add a digital filter function (a la Instagram), it creates an interesting dilemma:
- You could listen to your user, but spend time and resources creating it and maintaining this new function. It may also steer you away from pursuing your company goals.
- On the other hand, you could just ignore the comment and keep things simple, at the expense of potentially higher earnings.
Similar to other decisions, you need to assess the usefulness of customer feedback and how it will impact things. Do not just cater to the 500 customers you have at the moment- shape your company for the 1,000,000 customers you foresee having. Everything comes back to the vision.
Don’t rest on your laurels
If you happen to create a successful product, continue to ensure that it is the best that it can be. Optimize your product by experimenting, tweaking certain features, and making it better for your users. If you do not try to innovate and improve your company, the competition will catch up and eventually surpass you. Remember, this does not necessarily mean that you need to add more features.
Let us know if you have any useful tidbits of advice to share in the comments section!