It’s one of business’ most brutal truths. Not to mention one of its most paradoxical. And it happens — in the words of legendary founder Ben Horowitz — “all the time.”
“A founder develops a breakthrough idea and starts a company to build it. The product succeeds, and the company grows. Then … employees start complaining that the CEO is paying too much attention to what the employees can do better without her and not enough attention to the rest of the company.”
Soon words like scale descend and, with every good intention in the world, the founder transforms themselves from a passionate and “product-oriented CEO” into a “crappy, general-purpose CEO.”
The result? The product bloats, manufacturing expands, innovation dries up, and before you know it: “Looks like we need a new CEO.” To help you avoid that fate, here are six of the most common mistakes founders make scaling products … and how to avoid them.
1. Not sticking to the customer’s ‘job’
“When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives,” write Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor in The Innovator’s Solution, “they look around for a product or service that they can ‘hire’ to get the job done. This is now how customers experience life.”
Since its inception, Christensen and Raynor’s job-to-be-done model has fundamentally reshaped how companies create products. Unfortunately, staying focused on your customer’s job is often the first thing to go as a product scales.
Ironically, customers themselves can be part of the problem. “We have lots of feature requests coming in from customers all the time,” Kenny Rueter, co-founder of Kajabi, explained to me.
His solution? “We read every single one of them,” says Rueter, “but what we try to do is determine the desired outcome the customer is really after.” Staying focused on how to take your customers to their desired state as quickly and painlessly as possible is key to sustaining an innovative product, rather than one that dilutes itself by trying to do it all.
2. Not scaling in stages
What’s true of a customer’s job is equally true of building products themselves. The phrase “overnight success” sounds idyllic, but it’s far from accurate. Crossing the divide from “we make one thing well” to “we make everything” has shipwrecked countless founders.
Instead, establish your base product and core manufacturing skill set. Then, expand production only as proprietary demands require.
Entrepreneur in residence at Harvard, Michael Skok, put it like this: “Your product or service may be quite valuable to customers, but one thing you can’t often provide from the get-go is a true end-to-end solution. If you sell a piece of software, for example, it’s unlikely you can also offer the hardware, implementation, and services as well. You’re just not big enough yet to do it all.”
Remember, not being “big enough” is fine. Patience and steady expansion are far more valuable than overextending your resources.
3. Not following the data
At the opposite extreme of following every customer requests stands failing to listen. Especially to the data. Caught up in their original vision, founders often trot out Henry Ford’s famous adage: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
After all, the dogged pursuit of an original vision is often what makes successful founders in the first place. The same, however, isn’t true of CEOs.
Not understanding user data and the lead indicators of your industry can spell disaster. What products or services do well in the economy’s current climate? At what maturity level is your market? What are your acquisition and retention numbers telling you? These are all vital questions.
Success in any venture hinges on paying attention to your customer’s shifting trends and your market’s competitive landscape. Being acutely aware of these changes and remaining flexible allows founders to scale with confidence.
4. Not making the product effortless
Most products — especially innovative products — develop more rapidly than customer adoption. What makes for disruption in a startup product can quickly outpace a user’s skill and requirements when it comes time to sustain.
Most scaling companies tend to load up their products not only with more and more features but more and more power. The truth is: all that advancement counts for nothing if the products aren’t effortless.
As Tom More, founder and CEO at video creation app Promo by Slidely, told me, “If I had to pick one common sentiment that I think we should steer clear from, it’s aiming for ‘comprehensive’ and ‘powerful’ products, as opposed to products that are just fast and simple to use.”
There’s a sort of arms race mentality in scaling where leaders think they need to roll out additional options and functionalities to compete. However, once a product crosses the good-enough threshold — i.e., it helps customer’s complete their job — the primary goal should be to enable them to do their jobs more efficiently.
5. Not guiding employee evangelism
Mistakes in product marketing abound. But perhaps the most damaging comes from mismanaging a company’s most sacred resource: their employees. The problem isn’t so much social media stupidity, but rather failing to guide and equip employees as brand evangelists.
“Founders often fall into the trap of thinking that simply getting employees to share content will make sure they’re engaged with the company,” says Roope Heinilä, Co-Founder and CEO of employee advocacy platform Smarp. “One founder even asked if his company could have their employees connect their social profiles to Smarp for auto-posting of company content. I told them that by doing so, not only would they be alienating their own team but also degrading the company image.”
Instead of focusing on external sharing, it’s better to invest in knowledge sharing between employees, leadership, and product development. This increases employees’ sense of involvement and helps them become expert advocates.
6. Not encouraging failure
Encouraging failure can sound like a strange approach to scaling. After all, isn’t failure the very thing you’re trying to avoid? Yes … and no. The critical ingredients of launching a successful product — feedback and iteration — are equally necessary during and after growth.
When scaling, perfectionism is death. In fact, product missteps aren’t just inevitable, they’re essential. It’s a fine line and walking it comes from an unlikely source. “Early on,” wrote Pixar CEO Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc., “all of our movies suck. Pixar ﬁlms are not good at ﬁrst, and our job is to make them so — to go, as I say, ‘from suck to not-suck.’”
As a leader, the important thing isn’t to prevent errors, but to embrace and learn from them. This goes for all the mistakes mentioned above.
In the words of another Pixar innovator, director Andrew Stanton: “My strategy has always been: be wrong as fast as we can. Which basically means, we’re gonna screw up, let’s just admit that. Let’s not be afraid of that.”
Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. Connect with him about content marketing (and bunnies) on Facebook or Twitter.
More From this publisher : HERE
If you like our content help us with a share… or two …
Also - I have some free stuff for you .......
Nr 1. In This FREE Report you can Discover:
Secrets to acquiring the freshest, hottest leads via YouTube In-Stream ads quickly and easily! Best secret tips for the most effective targeting for your ads! Totally legal, but little-known method for literally stealing traffic from your competitors! Get more traffic to your videos and landing pages without spending a fortune! And much more - all within this special FREE report!
Nr 2. Did you know you can Absolutely EXPLODE YOUR EMAIL LIST FOR FREE with UNTOUCHED offline sources?
Nr 3. The #1 secret to becoming an affiliate superstar - Earn your first $100 online – without a dime to invest.
If you’re still looking to “make it online – I have just the thing for you. It’s a video series that shows how to make your first $100 online – even if you don’t have a dime to invest. Yes – nothing. Free. Nada. Is this possible? You bet. It’s the most powerful system used by those “in the know”. Good things don’t have to be difficult. And they don’t only come to those who wait. Have A Look
Nr 4. Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes. Which of these mistakes do you make?
Nr 5. You can learn about : The hottest social networking site that will send an unlimited stampede of traffic to your site - for FREE! How to quickly locate a swarm of hungry buyers using "information portals"! The fast and easy way to use simple images to siphon targeted traffic, on command! Learn how to get the most possible traffic from Instagram, and make sure that traffic converts! And much more ...
Nr 6. It’s no secret… Facebook is an incredible place to get tons of free, viral traffic. But… most people are going about it all wrong. How many of these mistakes are you making? Download the free report to find out.
Nr 7. Special free report . It's called "Operation Midas Touch" and you can download it here...
The report features a surefire method for generating at least $1000 per week online,without a website or product of your own!
Nr 8. Instagram is still one of the hottest ways to get a LOT of traffic fast. All by sharing images. Sounds easy enough, yeah? Well, yes and no. If you want to really start driving a lot of traffic and making sales using Instagram then you should download this report.
Nr 9. When it comes to creating a product online there are so many ways to approach it. Wouldn’t it be great to just get the meat of it all so you can get started faster? Well, the good news is, today you can download a guide called the Product Creation Formula Quickstart Guide. It’s as the title suggests - a Quickstart guide. You’ll get a list of action steps to take right away. Download your copy today !
Nr 10. Would you like to finally USE all of that dusty PLR you have sitting around on your harddrive? Or maybe find the resources for the best PLR available - at the best prices? What about how to use that PLR to make you money with just a few minutes of work. Well, you’re not going to want to miss this!
Nr 11. Buzzfeed’s top post has more than 21 million views. Think about that for a sec… ONE of their articles has had over 21 million people who have read it! And they have thousands of articles... what would you do with that kind of traffic? A friend of mine hacked their method and was able to use it to get 11,592 targeted new subscribers in 2 weeks on their very first attempt!
Nr 12. Push notifications are one of today's hottest trends in website traffic and conversions, and for good reason. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of people will opt-in for push notifications, which is about TEN TIMES the rate of people who opt-in for emails! That’s huge! Not only that, but they're also highly effective at pulling clicks, as well. Some studies have shown CTR at an average of around 40%, with highs of as much as 80%! Again, that’s huge!
Nr 13. Would you like to know how to get more money from the exact same number of website visitors you’re currently getting? Even if you’re website is getting as few as 1-2 visitors a day, this report will show you how to increase your profits using these few handy hacks.
Nr 14. People have now realised that it's not the size of the list which matters, it's the quality. ... and the only way to create a quality list is by launching your own products. Let it be $7 ebooks, $17 info products, $27 video training product or software's... all of these work. My good friend Kevin Fahey has is revealing how he's launched over 20 products in the past 4 years, many of them top sellers. Needless to say he's banked a handsome amount in this time.
Nr 15. Do you ever feel that the man you like or even love, just doesn't see you or desire you in way you want him to? Or... maybe you're able to get a man's attention though not the right kind of attention? Or... maybe you're still single because you wait and wait for men to approach you first? What you may not know is that the way we flirt will either attract the "wrong" man for us or the "right" man.
Nr 16. When it comes to getting sales and leads online, there is ONE thing that 95% of marketers use... it's called a LIST. My friend Jimmy just released a free book that explains WHY a list is important and how YOU can build your own list. It's available right here (and it won't cost you a penny)
Nr 17. If you have tried everything, and still aren't able to get your Ex back, then you need to pay attention.
Nr 18. What if I told you that you could make ANY woman WANT to do ANYTHING for you? Would you think I'm crazy? Well... what If I told you that you could also make her LOVE every minute of it and come back for more?
Nr 19. I have a special free plugin for you today. It's called "Covert Hover Mini"
This plugin will triple your blog traffic by compelling your visitors to share your images on social media. This is some really clever stuff and it works like a charm. After you grab your free plugin, don't forget to read the free bonus report as it will show exactly how and why this strategy works like crazy.
Nr 20. The days of being able to get away with a basic WP theme and a pic or two are gone, your site needs to look good. Even Google are looking for you to have engaging graphics on your site. But getting good quality graphics made for your site is a pain, AND it will cost you both time and money (if you outsource it). But I have a special free download for you today. A virtual treasure chest of over 21K profit pulling graphics you can start sing today to generate more traffic & sales!
Nr 21. 20 professional full HD background videos. These background videos are perfect for giving your videos that extra kick they need to stand out from the crowd Oh yeah they are in full 1080p HD too, I hope you'll enjoy them.
Nr 23. No doubt, you've seen all of the video launches lately! There is a reason for it... Video marketing is a GREAT way to make money, and with the recent creation tools making it super accessable for anyone to get started... It's no surprise that more people are making videos. However... there is a missing element to most video marketing products...
Nr 24. For the first time ever... You can get the straight scoop on how someone is selling over $1,000,000/year of t-shirts on Facebook!Use them .... and have fun !