Our Trip, Plan B. Or Maybe C.
A few weeks ago we said we’d be leaving for California. Yet here we still are, and probably not leaving for a few more.
Business decisions, that’s why! We’ve made some bad ones, and that has led to a lot of mistakes. But we rethought, reworked and figured out a better way so that we can keep moving forward.
The most important thing is launching our Podcaster’s Toolbox product. And on further reflection, we realized that spending four weeks driving cross-country on our way to Podcast Movement was not only risky but costing us time we could be spending working on our app.
So the new plan is to spend only one week driving out, then seven or eight back at our leisure. We also have a backup to our backup plan – if things go really, really south then we’ll fly out, attend Podcast Movement where we’ll launch our app, fly back, THEN drive to California!
In the end we decoupled “trip” from “launch” which means we can do both – with a lot less stress.
Let’s Make Mistakes!
Admittedly they’re not fun but there are things to be learned. And ours became glaringly clear after a conference we attended last week called Laracon, which is a conference for developers that is focused on a specific development platform called Laravel.
It turned out to be a lot less code-centric than I had expected it to be, which meant I got a lot out of it from a business perspective. Mostly, it made us realize that we were following the wrong path and we got a serious kick in the butt to get back on track with our software launch!
The thing is, I didn’t hear anything earth-shattering. Nothing was particularly new to me. But we’ve been so stuck in the weeds of our daily activities that we lost sight of the big picture.
And if we can get so lost in our own heads, after 18 years and four business ventures, then we bet you can too. The trick is to get going in the right direction again, which is what we’re talking about today. You may not hear anything earth-shattering here, either. But maybe it’s the reminder you need to get out of your own weeds and start moving forward in your business.
Mistake #1: WTF MVP?
We’ve developed a lot of apps in our time, and we’ve worked with other people who have. And one of the core principles of launching an app is MVP: Minimum Viable Product.
That means figure out the minimum thing you need to get your product out the door, and do that. You may have a lot of big ideas and grand visions, but you need to start somewhere. And start small.
If we’d been advising a client, we would have insisted on an MVP. But when it came to our own product, we completely lost sight of that.
We wanted it all. We wanted every feature. And we wanted them to be perfect. Except that’s not how anything in life works.
So we had to stop and reassess. What’s our MVP? And are we taking the right actions to reach MVP or are we digressing back into the weeds of big ideas?
Launch something good. Not perfect. Then make it better.
Mistake #2: Putting Design Before Content
If we’d been working with a client, we would never have made this mistake. But again, we lost sight of what was important in our own busyness and excitement.
We got caught up in building pretty landing pages and awesome email templates and cool buttons, but didn’t build a single feature.
Part of the problem was focus. It’s a lot easier (and more fun) to work on the pretty stuff. The stickers and postcards and colors and pictures. It’s not as much fun to draw flowcharts for user interaction and error control.
Sometimes you have to do the stuff that’s not as sexy. The boring stuff. The hard stuff. Get rid of distractions, and focus.
Mistake #3: Mismanagement
I get to blame this one on myself, and oh the irony! In one of our recent episodes I lamented the lack of leadership in another business that I’m not involved in. Well, this time I get to wear the mantle of poor leader.
The problem is that I am not a programmer. So when Ralph, my primary programmer, tells me something that sounds like a foreign language, not even human, I nod dumbly and say ok. I assume that I’m not going to understand it so I’ll let him steer the ship.
Turns out he needs a manager.
After the conference we attended, I realized that there is a lot I can understand – conceptually, if not specifically. I don’t have to know how to program to understand concepts like, “Don’t spend all day tweaking code when you haven’t even built a feature yet.”
Part of my job has to be learning more, not just accepting what I don’t know. As the team leader, I have to understand at least enough to be able to set targets and expect results. And I have to ask lots and lots of questions.
There’s no excuse for ignorance. Nobody has to know everything. But everyone (everyone who wants to succeed, that is) has to know something.
An Inspirational Tale
At the conference, one of my favorite speakers was Justin Jackson. I’m in a few of his developer communities and have watched some of his courses related to launching an app.
And he told a story that was like a punch in the face. In short, he decided one day that he wanted to build something and make a dollar that very day. So he did.
He set up a landing page, offered a simple service for $10 per month, and by the end of the night he had 36 people sign up. It really was that simple.
And why did it happen? Because he decided to do it. He didn’t spend days and months tweaking landing pages and copy. He didn’t overthink features and functionality. He did it.
He had a clear goal and he delivered. And if he can do it, so can we. So can you.
If you’re feeling stuck or if you’ve been sitting on an idea forever (maybe you’ve been working on one forever?) then it’s time to stop and take a hard look at what you’re doing.
For us, we had to step outside ourselves and ask, “What would I tell a client if they were in my position?”
The answers were right there, and I bet they’re right there for you, too.
Make a change, take a step, and get something done.
Even if you think everything is running smoothly, I bet there are places you can improve. Cut something from a five minute task to a three minute task. Offload something to a VA. Whatever it is, do it in pursuit of your MVP. Make something happen, something simple, something small. Then keep making it better.
If you’ve got a story to share or a place you’re stuck, let us know! We’re good at doling out advice. Occasionally we’re even good at following it.