9 years ago I decided I would take fate into my own hands and start a small business. With the unwavering support of my girlfriend (now wife) I quit two menial jobs and began a career as a ‘Designer’, with no savings and no experience. What has ensued has been a crazy and sometimes painful ride but I am still here and a hopefully have learnt a few things along the way. Welcome to my world.
I have now spent a long time watching technology based businesses fail all around me (including ones I have been involved with). Time after time I have witnessed potentially brilliant ideas crumble due to poor execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen but the kind of person who can see an idea through to a successful venture is a very rare breed. There is too much emphasis placed on the financial and technological processes in business and not enough discussion around core principles such as ethics, love, creativity and attention to detail.
This follows along the same theme as I touched on last week in relation to ‘care’ and how important it is. We are currently going through the process of a minor re-brand at Digital Noir and as a part of that, we were forced to dilute what we believed our one core ‘principle’ point of difference was. As a team, we came to the conclusion that the difference between what we do (or at least try to do) and what we witness a lot of our competitors doing is that ‘We give a shit‘.
By this we mean that we are not motivated by the financial incentive or pressure from our boss to produce work, we do it because we get a kick out of creating amazing stuff and making our clients happy. There is a sense of duty in the work we undertake and level of quality that we hold ourselves to. We don’t see our clients as stats or as purely a means to an end.
So many new businesses that I see are driven purely by economic goals or far-fetched dreams of larger than life outcomes (selling to Google or apple is a very common theme). In their minds, they have already jumped past their first paying customer and are cashing in some huge fantasy paycheck. In my experience, these people fail. That first customer should be primary focus of their thoughts, making that one person love your product or service is the springboard for the second happy customer and so on….
Terms like ‘User Acquisition’ are fine and sometimes necessary parlance. But looking at everything from a cold, dollars and stats perspective ignores the product (or service) that is supposed to be the catalyst for driving your customer base. I am not saying that you ignore finance either. Business is about making money at the end of the day. But in my experience, if you focus on really giving a shit about your user base or customers first then you will have to worry much less about your ROI later.
You need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think not only ‘would I enjoy this service… or would I use this app’ but also ‘would I run and tell me mates about how goddamn awesome this was’. If this answer was NO, then perhaps you are doing it wrong? I appreciate that some businesses do succeed with rapid user acquisition and terrible retention rates (churn and burn) but they are few and far between and a soulless, money machine is not something I would ever be interested in.
Start every decision by giving a shit about what you are doing and good things will come your way.