No, I am not going away and this is not my farewell speech. Just thought that writing the title in past tense seemed to make sense.
After switching from a service company back in 2006/07, a large chunk of my life revolved around DeskAway. An inspirational article I read made me look at the things that I have learnt in the last 3-4 years growing and scaling a SaaS business.
Quick, rapid decisions: You can easily change things around if something does not work out. Don’t ponder and wonder if something needs to be done. Just do it and if it doesn’t work, switch gears and try something else. Try out different tools, policies, management styles, testing procedures, website design and keep only the ones that work. Move fast.
Measure early and often: Everything on the web is measurable. Initially, we were too engrossed in building software that we completely ignored analytics and measuring the customer acquisition funnel. This was back in early 2008. Once we realized that we could learn so much more about our users and business, we built an internal dashboard to track everything - sales, free signups, conversion funnel, upgrades, downgrades and other important metrics. Today, key business indicators are a click away. This is needed to make quick, rapid decisions.
Hire attitude first, then skill: Hiring the right people is a huge challenge. We learnt our lesson early on when we were doing website design and development. We hired an expensive designer who we had to fire after we found out that he was freelancing from within our office. I am not a fan oft hiring experts - they are generally very expensive for startups. Look for good attitude and a willingness to learn. Get the right people on your bus, the wrong people out.
Make time for play: I enjoy each day. Work does consume a large part of it but I generally take out time to pursue my other passions (like tennis, golf and traveling) and spend a good amount of time with family. I guess the family part is well rooted in our Indian culture. Life is too short to spend it away on all work and no play. Also, make sure you take care of your health - without a healthy mind/body there is no work.
Don’t chase success: In 2008 we concentrated on building good software and listening to our customers. This automatically gave us a decent amount of recognition on international blogs, print and TV. This was huge for our small business. The beauty of it was that everything happened so organically - maybe we were doing the right things and enjoying it while at it each day. Too much greed for success gets in the way.
Manage your time: When you are short on resources and need to wear different hats you better know how to manage your priorities. Be aware of where you spend your time. Learn to say no. Keep a certain alloted time for reading and social networking. These things can so easily consume you that by the time you know it, it is already time to go home.
Think purpose & brand: Features and pricing are not really differentiators. The real differentiator is your purpose and the perceived value within your customer’s mind. They should join you because of the message you are giving out. Do you stand for something important? Your purpose, brand and culture should be bigger than your product. This is something that I think about each day.
I am sure there are several more things that I have learnt and am learning each day. I will pen them down on another post soon. It has been an exiting journey so far and looking forward to some fabulous announcements in the next couple of months…