What it Takes to Build a Successful Product — Part II

Diary of a Product Owner, CTO and Entrepreneur.
SEPTEMBER, 2018

The "big idea" has achieved rarified status in the startup world.

You hear it all the time from wannabe entrepreneurs and aspiring innovators: "I just need to find my big idea…"
But your idea — your product, your business, your next big thing — matters a lot less than you might think.
At the end of the day, good ideas aren't rare. There's an infinite supply of them. But we only hear about the ones that were built on a strong foundation, with good leadership and a solid team.

In our first post in this two-part series, we detailed the individual qualities you need to build a successful product or business. Now, here's what your company needs to turn your big idea into a raging success.
Your team
There are three critical roles to fill on your team, no matter what you're building:
You need someone to sell. You need someone to engage with customers. And you need someone to manage the product.
On rare occasions, one person can fill all three roles — and dominate across the board. If that's you, go forth and conquer. More than likely, though, you will need multiple people to fill those roles because you want experts — and ownership. You need to move quickly when you're building something new. That leaves little time for hand-holding or managing subpar performance.

So find the people you need, and find them fast.
Your market
A good idea is worth little without a good market. And in general, the bigger, the better. You will have competition, of course, but for most entrepreneurs, that's just fuel to their fire.

A smaller market can work, but only if you can dominate it. And consider just how small you're willing to go: If you've got 100% of a $20 million market, you will only ever have a $20 million company.

So look at your market. Analyze it. Determine if there are opportunities to make your market bigger, or if you should go after a different market altogether. You don't want to limit yourself right out of the gate.
Your product or service
You've got your idea. Now, what are you going to do with it?

My advice: Prototype as much as possible, and be prepared to iterate. Your initial product — the fruit of that big idea — is probably not your final product. And you need to build something people actually want to buy. Collect customer feedback, digest it and resist the urge to satisfy that one client who needs one new feature to sign on the dotted line. Make only those changes that will serve the broader market as a whole.
Your time
Time is not on your side when you're building something.

The more time you sink into the project, the more money you spend and the greater risk you take of having competitors beat you to market. You want to build a customer base, get some revenue in the door, reduce your expenses and raise capital when necessary.
And you want to do all of that, fast.
That makes decisiveness key. On your team, define your individual roles and develop a system for making decisions. You need to know who has the final say, and that person must be comfortable with taking action quickly.

And remember: Don't fear failure. A bad decision is almost always better than no decision. And you learn as much or more from your missteps as you do from your wins.

As a team, we've helped both seasoned leaders and entrepreneurs build and transform their businesses. And while the "big idea" matters, it's never the key to success. Winning in the market always comes down to having the right people in the right roles and building powerful, nimble companies that are out to serve their customers and serve them well.


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