One year from now when your business fails, you’ll likely blame it on the terrible, unusable app no one used that killed your bank account and squashed your dream.
But the real failure is that you failed to make real, genuine relationships with your customers. You confused building software for creating a business. What a young company needs more than anything else is quality, genuine human interaction. On a customer level. On an employee level. No existing software on the planet comes close to doing that.
This past Tuesday, I spent a couple hours talking to three smart, energetic entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses over the next few weeks. In all three cases, I suggested they decrease the amount of software they’re building. In two cases, I suggested taking software completely out of the mix (albeit temporarily). Maybe I’m an asshole, because it’s clear that software will need to play a critical role in their success. But only in the long term. In the short term, it’s just an excuse to do busy work and possibly be distracted by feeling productive for productivity’s sake. In both cases, these guys looked incredibly relieved when they realized that building a huge web application isn’t critical to their immediate success. At least, I think it was relief and not them just thinking I’m an idiot.
I tried to focus them on the first thing that needs to be built: individual relationships. For example, picture your first prospective customer in your mind. Now, do you think that, as a fledgling company, this prospective customer is going to shower you with cash because of your non-battle-tested piece of software? They’re not an investor. Rather, aren’t you more confident that making a 1:1 connection with this customer, telling them your story, making them see that you’re just as passionate about solving their business problem as they are, and finally leading the way towards that solution, may be a better sales pitch? The website you built, in that case, is just a tool that’ll help meet that goal.
Now. Software may be your business. Without it, there is nothing. If you’re building a bug tracker, well, you can’t NOT have that software on day one. Doesn’t make sense. If your business is your software, then disregard every single thing I just wrote. Except this: you still need to build individual relationships with your customers and users. If you don’t, you’ll fail. Your job is actually harder than for the guys I mention above.
Long story short, if your business CAN succeed without a custom-built, fund-gulping piece of software, then go out and succeed without it first. Use Facebook. Use Dropbox. Use the phone. Use email. Use the thousands of existing b2b tools out there which will serve as your assistant, rather than the roadblock between you and your customer. Be your business. Don’t let your software define you, your success, or heaven forbid, your failure.