About a week ago, my Aunt and Uncle sent me the book “Zen, and the art of motorcycle maintenance” as a gift. To me, it has been a treatise on the power of mastering a skill to free yourself from dependence on others and improving work quality.
Chad and I have both been trained to buy services when we are not familiar with how to do something professionally. At GE, our goal was to create the product as fast as possible by making a plan and getting a team to execute. In a lean startup, our goal has shifted from product completion speed to product definition and adoption speed. Of course we have a vision of our product, but the focus is not on developing the product we imagine but using a less than optimal product, that’s quick to produce, to start testing our assumptions and learning about our customers. We evaluate the success of our actions by whether they help determine what our customers will pay for, what features they need, and what revenue model they’ll accept.
Others can offer advice and perspective, but the only way for us to really answer these questions is to do the grunt work ourselves. In the process, we not only learn about our customers but about ourselves, our capabilities and the true effort it will take to build new features and get massive user adoption.
It has not been easy, in fact the last two months have been incredibly painful from a development perspective. We’ve had to learn how to code, design, market and create legal documents. Finally, this week, we’re starting to feel comfortable in these new roles and progress is starting to show.
Our ultimate goal is to build a sustainable, large scale business, so we will need to hire tons of people way smarter than ourselves to get it there. When the time comes to start scaling up the business, our hard work should give us the clarity to hire, manage and mentor our employees much more effectively than if we hadn’t put in the effort to be “one” with our product and customers.