Howdy! A Portland, OR native, I currently reside in the northern San Diego County area as a freelance writer. When I'm not sipping coffee, soaking up some rays and writing or playing guitar you can find me at the hot yoga studio.
What it feels like to be successful is typically a nebulous term.
However, people will use it to describe how they are feeling about the experience of starting a business, achieving a certain level of success, etc.
There are several ways to be successful:
You can do well and still fail. This is true.
You can outsource many of these tasks to technology, people, or bots.
If you outsource these tasks, be sure you measure your success through the eyes of your customers.
These are some examples of high-quality startups that could not survive with fewer resources:
The founders built a powerful mobile app, great brand, and massive user base.
However, even with the largest social media following, they couldn't make money.
Below is a screenshot of one of their founder's comments on the app's development:
"Our secret weapon, though, is that I have a few former colleagues who came back to Babylon for me, and they've been working their butts off on the app."
But, here's what happens: When you outsource everything, your work is visible to everyone. This is true whether you are outsourcing or in-source.
"I do not believe that there is an IT person or engineer that I can go to and just make a good code," one of the Babylon founders wrote in an email to me.
The quality of the startup's product suffers when the founders do not produce anything.
Successful businesses create value.
Before you can create value, you must have customers. Customers are your lifeblood.
Without them, you have no customers.
This value creation is like a muscle.
The best way to build it is to make a good product.
Creating value is what will keep customers coming back.
You can create more value by improving your product and by acquiring new customers.
Below are ways to increase the value of your company:
If you decide to grow your business, you will likely spend more time making your customers happy and less time making sure your servers stay up.
This is the source of what my colleague Matt Schmitt calls "tech debt." You are paying to maintain the backend and that's more expensive than what you could make it, especially if you are expanding.
This is because we live in an on-demand world. Customers expect you to be on the cutting edge of technology.
They don't want to wait around for six months for something new. They expect it to be there in a few weeks.
To do well, you have to keep up to date and invest more in your infrastructure.
You have to invest in tech debt to remain a leader.
This is an old argument.
The "Uber/Lyft/Airbnb" argument revolves around the idea of value.
Here's the basic premise of the argument:
To run a successful business, you have to deliver a good product or service at a price consumer are willing to pay.
This creates a perceived value.
If you don't give people what they want at a price they are willing to pay, they will switch to the product or service of their competitor.
The problem with this argument is that there is no accounting for opportunity cost.
What you can't afford to buy or do may not have the same value to another customer.
This is true whether the two customers have equal cost and marginal benefit.
Remember that Uber is a great business. But, will Uber survive if its cars have to stop at every stoplight?
This argument breaks down quickly if you want to add more features or more cars.
The fact is that a great app (or business) provides more value for the same amount of cost. If you create more value, your customers will pay for it.
The arguments for investing in tech debt are not just limited to startups.
Firms that want to grow can't afford to neglect their tech debt. The first step to building a great company is to understand tech debt.
When you've calculated your tech debt, determine how much more value your business could create with the extra time and money you spend to fix it.
The problem is that it's impossible to calculate tech debt exactly. It varies by company.
Instead of taking the lazy way and giving you an answer, I encourage you to think like a customer.
Imagine that you need to buy a car. You see a few options. A one-year-old Toyota that will get you where you're going.
A three-year-old Mercedes. A BMW.
Which car is the most expensive to buy? Which car is the most fun?
Which car makes you look and feel your best? Which car looks the best?
All cars have a cost. However, it's how you spend that cost that makes a car worth buying or driving.
In today's on-demand world, it's easy to take your car for a test drive.
In fact, you can drive around to all the dealerships and find whatever car you want for a few hundred dollars.
When it comes to customer service, tech debt is a race against the clock.
We can't afford to be slow when it comes to new tech and innovation.