I'm a first-time entrepreneur and I've come across a few problems and solved them. I'm dealing with a certain couple of problems now that I'm not sure how to solve. Before I ask my questions, let me give a brief history of my progress. I feel like if I come at this from the "big-picture" angle I'll probably get more intelligent answers.
At first I was trying to build a business on my own but I realized that was a mistake. My problem was that I needed a business partner. Now I have a business partner to help bear the load of undertaking the task of starting a business.
I also didn't have anything that I felt was a decent business idea. Now I have one: software for salons. It might seem odd that I think that's my best idea - it's clearly not a "silver bullet" type of idea, but just go with me on this one. I haven't started actually designing or building the software yet, just so you know.
I have one customer right now. (The customer came before the business idea.) This salon is unhappy with their current software and there don't seem to be any acceptable competitors out there. Since I'm 100% confident I can develop something that's not a bloated, outdated, intimidating, Microsoftey hunk of flaming garbage, I'm confident that this is a good business idea.
Now, my questions are:
I think that it is a good idea to do a bit more market research before jumping in and develop a product for just one customer. You should have more salons tell you what they like about the software that they use, and what they don't. What is frustrating? What is awesome? What is it about the software that makes it indispensable. You should definitely have a fully working and tested product before you roll it out. There will always be bugs, but the big ones should be solved before it becomes their only product. This is a great market to develop a product in because most stylists love to talk. You'll end up with way more information than you need.
One of the things that I do is website design and development for small businesses. Something that I have learned is to set clear expectations ahead of time, to always give yourself more time than you think you'll need, and to write a very detailed contract. Starting simple is probably your best strategy.
Hope this helps!
I think the more validation you can get for your idea, the better. It could turn out that other salons don't see any problems with their software. The more people who say that they will buy your software, the better. Also, do you have an idea of pricing and how many customers you will need to make it a viable project? It's a good idea to ask customers whether they are prepared to pay the price you ask for.
Regarding your second question, delivering a minimal product sounds like a good idea, as long as the salon is happy with it. I suppose you could explain to them that this approach will help you get feedback from them and deliver a product that's better suited to their needs. It's a good idea to be able to fall back to the old software in case of any problems during the transition period.
Agree with Alicia. You need to get "validation" from your potential clients. In short, get out there and try to get at least 10 - 30 people in the salon business to validate your idea by agreeing to try out your software and actually sign on for it if it becomes a reality. Do this BEFORE you start writing any code.
This blog post is related to your question, I recommend you read it: