As one embarks on any new journey, there are a million things that you learn on the way and there are a zillion things that may go wrong. One thing is for sure, in start-ups, it is imperative that you don multiple hats. Just because you have been hired as a CTO, do not, for the love of god, be under the impression that you can stick to technology and be done with it. Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Wrap your head around the fact that the role is just a very thin boundary. You have to have a handle on everything about the business. – Finance, Marketing, Customer Engagement etc. The list could go on. Obviously when it comes to things outside of your comfort zone, there is this nagging voice in your head which keeps asking you – “am I doing the right thing? Is this enough?” What is enough really? What’s enough in one function – is absolutely insignificant in others. Hence the title Less is More for somethings while More is Less in others. Let’s get a quick dekko into certain critical things.
Back-end Stack: More is Less. You have gotta invest in a robust back-end. Don’t ever get into “let’s make-do with this for now” – it will be a very expensive, time consuming mistake to change the stack later
Product Functionality / Features: Less is definitely More. Follow, without second thoughts, the philosophy of MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Get the beta version out – bare minimum functionality. No bells and whistles. Strictly. Identify a pilot customer who is willing to experiment. The one customer, who will take the product to the next level. Give the client – all the features and functionalities which will impact his business, which will make things easier for him, which in other words, is a necessity – and which makes him think “how the hell did I manage without this all the while”. Then get to work with that client. Reach a stage where less is no longer more – time to go all out to build a feature packed product
Services: This is the only straight forward decision. What customer asks AND pays (willing to pay) – is what he gets. Nothing more nothing less.
Less is More. Oh yes, believe me, this is the new-age mantra. In the time of digital marketing, pick and choose your target segment very wisely. This is half the battle won. Don’t bombard ads to people who are in no way connected to your business – not only are you wasting your precious money and time, but also irritating a whole bunch of people out there. Get some smart business grads to manage your social media accounts. Engage your potential customers – make ads interactive as much as possible. Be extremely specific and to the point about your messages – the attention span for the reader / viewer is very less.
More is Less. No, seriously. More is definitely very Less. Let’s take all the stakeholders;
Investors: There are two kinds, really. The micromanagement ones. And the hands-off approach folks. Either ways – learn to deal with them. Irrespective of what kind your investor is, some simple tips: Have internal weekly status meetings. Send the gist. Keep them in the loop about business impact decisions ONLY (key word being ONLY). Don’t bug them with nitty-gritties. Don’t hesitate to ask their help. They are networked. Each one of them. “Ask and It shall be given to you” – or in the slang “Poochne mein kya jaata hai”. Believe me, if their skin is in the game, they will go all out to help you. Remember to let go of your ego.
Founding Team: Do everything you can to involve them. No business decision is small. Message to the investor, change in employee policy, new target segment, cut down in marketing expenditure – anything and everything. Make them feel involved – take them along with you. It is not the product or the service which can succeed by itself, it is the team behind it which ensures that it succeeds. And obviously, this culture will percolate down the ranks.
Employees: Dime a dozen. If one leaves, there are multiples with same skill set out there. But think of the learning curve, company culture, time and effort spent on hiring, training, orientation blah blah. Absolutely avoidable. Keep them engaged. The millennials are into umpteen different things. Make the work place fun, informative, entertaining. Entice them to join and make them want to stay.
Clients: Engage, engage, engage. Be innovative. Just because you are in B2C space does not mean your office is off limits to them. Identify the few of your loyal customers in good corporate positions (who blog, will be an added bonus). Bring them in – meet the team. Ask their feedback then and there. Send them the status updates on any important feature. Keep the customers posted on the product road map.
Loyalty is everything. Make it a barrier to entry.
Finally, it’s all about Money, honey. Less is definitely way way More. It really does not matter what stage your company is in – idea, incubation, funded, growth, healthy margins, good sales etc. Just bootstrap and continue to do so. Think twice before spending on anything extravagant – keep asking the question – what is the ROI? Will I get more customers? Will I get my employees loyalty? Is this just to get a feel good factor? Ask some really hard questions – before deciding on any spend.
In essence, there might be areas where you will have to decide – does it make business sense to do more / scale down? But end of the day – you really have to go the extra mile. Always helps to remember: “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile – Roger Stoubach”.
But whatever said and done, despite all the tips and tricks – some things are bound to go south. Just keep calm. And eat curd rice. Seriously!!