Can mistakes be made because you are too close to your own product?


5

I am a web developer and designer, and am working on a business plan and essentials for a new product. After spending some time working on a logo for my product, I came to the conclusion that my proximity to the product itself may actually keep me from having a great logo design.

I've decided to commission the logo design to a colleague in the business to get an objective look at the product, then derive a logo that fits.

While the logo I would have produced may not have been a mistake, the decision I made came from months of research into this business space, and I think I made the right decision.

Have you made any mistakes with your business because you were too close to the product? How did you rectify those mistakes?

Things like:

  • Not outsourcing a component to a third party
  • Launching a product without properly testing it with the target audience
  • Jumping the gun on a launch because you thought your product was ready
  • Not being able to achieve funding because your idea sounded great, but was not properly backed up with solid research

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asked Dec 15 '09 at 07:18
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Strozykowski
218 points

7 Answers


5

Focusing on the technology rather then on the customers needs is a classic mistake that tech-savvy entrepreneurs make. Another is focusing on the technology when trying to convince investors to invest.

In general, having a balanced management team is critical in order to make sure that you don't make mistakes because of your bias. You need a "devils advocate" for that.

The fact that you are aware of the dangers and are asking for advice to overcome them means that you are less likely to make these mistakes.

Good luck with your product.

answered Dec 15 '09 at 07:53
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Ron Ga
2,181 points
  • This is a great perspective that I didn't even think about. When the time comes that I have a prototype for my product, I'll confer with some colleagues and create a "board of directors" who I trust (and maybe even fear a little) so that I take the proper care with my product launch. – Strozykowski 10 years ago

2

It's worse, you will always make certain mistakes because you're too close to it.

It's just like trying to proofread your own writing. You can't do a good job. If you let a lot of time pass and you can approach it fresh, you see all sorts of things that were invisible before.

This applies to everything as "simple" as writing copy on your website to as complex as choosing opportunities and hiring people.

However I don't think the items you list necessarily have anything to do with being "close" to the product. "Not outsourcing" isn't a problem of closeness, but of not weighing the pros and cons properly.

A better example would be a crappy UI design where you lose potential customers every day and you can't see why.

The antidote is to recognize this and seek external validation. For the crappy UI, hold in-house usability tests where you ask people to perform simple tasks and observe what they do, what trips them up, and where they get stuck.

answered Dec 16 '09 at 09:33
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Jason
16,231 points
  • All great advice, thanks! – Strozykowski 10 years ago

1

This is a very common problem, and the best advice I can give you is to watch this video on
Customer Development Check out Steve Blank's blog I highly recommend Sean Ellis's blog, a good starting point would be this post
Milestones to Start-up Success Get ready for a bumpy ride, and good luck!

answered Dec 16 '09 at 03:08
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User1269
158 points

1

All these answers are great, but one more pitfall is not knowing where your strengths are.

A great example is Macys a couple decades ago. I'm paraphrasing Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational (I think): Macy's saw themselves as an upscale clothing store, but they started selling more and more appliances to their customers. Instead of marketing, enhancing, or promoting their appliances, they did the exact opposite and started scaling down that part of their operation.

Obviously, this sounds dumb, but it's a result of being too close to your product. You see your company one way and really try to promote that, but the users see your company another way.

I'm not saying ditch your favorite features and be a slave to your users, but be very, very mindful of what other people say about your product, and be willing to change your mission statement to reflect what they like.

answered Dec 16 '09 at 18:31
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Raymond Giorgi
61 points

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Yes! Don't forget the entrepreneur's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not fall in love with my product or service.

Getting too close to your product or service is bad karma. It not only clouds one's judgement but can masquerade the basis for an otherwise viable business model.

Leading with a product or service is always dangerous even if it's the result of a thoughtful idea that has business merit.

In the beginning, entrepreneurs should always create a structure for their venture, one that starts with an idea (opportunity recognition) and then the identification of a customer.

Who's the customer? What's the benefit? And how do we get the benefit to the customer? These are the three most important concerns of any startup and these concerns should be addressed during the development stage of the venture . When these questions are answered they form a concept and concepts, with careful testing and analysis (feasibility), can be proved or disproved.

Feasibility testing does not eliminate your risk of failure or underperformance but it certainly manages it more intelligently because of its objectivity.

On the other hand, leading your start-up with a product or a target market in mind is very risky because one is looking for a problem to solve and the other is attempting to differentiate an unknown. Both are very risky and when you add the entrpreneur's attachment of affection to the mix you have a disaster in the making.

Integrity and objectivity is essential for any startup and is the first goal to be achieved. Without these virtues, your model and business plan will be flawed.

In essence, it's always nice to sell the dream but it's much better to buy the reality.

As a reminder, VC's only buy realities.

Make sure the pond is safe before you cross it - do your homework and use sound judgement.

Tommy Jaye

answered Dec 20 '09 at 16:08
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Tommy Jaye
231 points
  • wheres the line drawn between love for your product, or passionate for your product? how do i know if i've gone to far and fallen in love so i can take a step back? – Espinet 10 years ago
  • Hey espinet, As an entrepreneur, your mindset should not be about whether your idea (product/service) is good or bad - that's a personal judgement. Your mindset should be focused on your customer's thoughts about your product/service, is it good or bad, does it need to be tweaked, etc.? Again, testing (feasibility) forces you to step back and evaluate objectively. Talk to as many people as you can about your product; potential customers, suppliers, experts, strangers, competitors; attend trade shows and consume industry pub's & adjust accordingly. This will help prevent "going too far." – Tommy Jaye 10 years ago

1

Yes. It's important to take a step back and evaluate the direction you are going in. Most of the time we're in the trenches coding, designing, sweating, thinking on a micro level. Every now again you must return to the macro and see the big picture.

Case in point, In the past month I've had a couple collegues, friends, and other close associates evaulate my project, and everyone of them pointed out at least one "duh" design flaw. Also, it's helpful to have that one person who you know that will be critical of the implementation of your project.

answered Dec 15 '09 at 17:45
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Joe A
1,196 points

0

I'd agree with Jason - no one can be objective about their (startup) baby. That said, what's been missing in the definition of "startup good practices" is how to address this. A ceo of a new startup did a guest post at my blog friday about his company - http://AskMyBrainTrust.com. I think the idea - or your own implementation of it - has a lot of merit.

If you look at big companies, evenly privately held companies, there's both the formal mechanism of a Board of Directors, and informal "kitchen cabinets" of advisers.

The trick is making this a win-win for your advisers - what do they get out of the deal?

answered Dec 21 '09 at 06:27
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Bob Walsh
2,620 points

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