You have an idea.
A dream, a vision, and an urge to make it a reality, and add some extra figures to your bank account while doing so. Throw in a little initiative and a persistent can-do attitude, and voila! You have the potential to build a start-up and launch a product that could take the marketplace by storm - provided you handle the whole process with panache.
As a new entrepreneur (yes, that is the word used to describe passionate individuals like yourself who have decided that they have a worthy contribution for the world and will stop at nothing to make their product idea a reality), you might still be trying to figure out the lay of the land.
Where do you start? Who do you want to accompany you on this unfamiliar journey? When do you know you are ready to let the world in on your little idea? How do you navigate the obstacles on the way (especially when you don’t even know what size or shape these obstacles might take on)? Wait, was your product idea even a good one to begin with?
Okay, slow down. It can be overwhelming to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, but we assure you, the view at the end is worth the climb. While we can’t really guide you on your way, we can cheer you on from the sidelines and also throw in a few refreshing tips that will make life easier for you. Read on to get an idea about the 10 tips we have handpicked for successful startup product development. Spoiler alert: there are no shortcuts to success.
1. Get Ready for the End of the World as You Know It.
As we just mentioned, there are simply no shortcuts to success. It will take all your blood, sweat, and tears to take your product idea and translate it into a product that can hold its own in the marketplace. In order to give it your one hundred percentage, you will have to be ready to forgo some parts of the lifestyle you are used to. This can mean anything from being ready to handle 3 AM phone calls to skipping an important family function to attend a meeting because one of your team members had a eureka moment. And everything in between.
And these will not be one-time-only scenarios. You will need to prepare yourself and your loved ones mentally for a gruelling journey ahead in terms of personal comfort. Even if you think you have managed to find a good work-life balance without denying yourself any of the pleasures that life has to offer, there will come along a hiccup that will throw your balance right out the window again. But the good news is, if you stick it out and continue giving it your all, the results of your product development cycle will speak for all the sacrifices you will have made, big and small.
2. Dream Big but Start Small
If you are an entrepreneur, then you are a dreamer with big goals to achieve. While this is good, do not aim for perfection straight off the bat, as this will only slow you down in the long run. You need to start somewhere to test the waters and figure out how to go about making your dream product a reality. You should put your best foot forward, as your product will only have one chance to make a first impression, but it is recommended to start with a minimum viable product that acts as a precursor to your final
product. Doing this will give you a better idea of variables such as your target audience, your product niche in the marketplace, your unique selling points, and the kind of marketing that is best suited for your product.
More importantly, launching a minimum viable product will give you a chance to find any bugs or fixes that your product faces. Since it is not your final product, you will get the time to resolve the issues and iron out the kinks before launching a fully-fledged product. In a way, this beta-testing will save you the enormous additional expenses associated with mass product recalls and also keep you from making a bad first impression on your users.
3. Accept that Fund-Raising will be Difficult
Unfortunately, everyone with an idea thinks that theirs is a million-dollar one, which means potential investors will have listened to hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs and would have been exposed to pretty much all sorts of ideas under the sun. And by the time they get around to you, it is possible that they may be seasoned veterans who are hard to crack with any run-of-the-mill pitch.
Your pitch game needs to be strong. The key here is to make your pitch as unique as possible and build up the reliance to be turned down not once or twice, but twenty times if need be. Consider raising funding for your product development as gold mining. You are a miner in the early gold rush days. You know there’s gold to be found if you work hard enough (with a little bit of luck involved), but you won’t know exactly when you hit gold. All you can do is grind your teeth, keep your hopes up, and keep digging. The good thing is, you won’t even think of giving up if you have faith in your product.
4. Understand That Your Product is Only as Good as Your Team
Before you start your product development journey, you need to get your basics right. Understand that your product will only be as good as your team, and pick your team members wisely. You need a strong team in their subject knowledge and can act as consultants in addition to team members.
They also need to be goal-oriented individuals who are motivated by more than money - passion is the key word here. In a nutshell, you need a team that is ready to die trying (this is only a slight exaggeration) to bring your product vision to life and possess skill sets that are at par with the industry bests.
5. Set Up a Good Work Environment
You must set up a work environment that is conducive to continuous learning and development. You can do this by ensuring that there are healthy communication and free interaction between your team members. You also need to be ready to shine the spotlight on everyone and give credit where it’s due. Reward your team’s achievements and commemorate the milestones set by them.
Another thing you can do to enhance your working environment is to use your minimum viable product to initiate feedback loops with your team members, who can put forward their concerns regarding the product. You can address these concerns with corrective measures during the rest of the product development phases.
6. Do Not Depend on the Waterfall Method of Working
This point is easy to explain. Be agile.
Technology is evolving, and you need to evolve with it to make sure that by the time your product is launched, its relevance is not diminished. Your team also needs to adopt a continuous learning process to stay agile.
In a waterfall system, as and when each project phase is completed, the next team can take over, which means that one team or the other is jobless during some points of the product development. Another great benefit of adopting the agile methodology is that no team member is idle at any point of the product development process.
7. See Failures as Stepping Stones to Success
You and your team will make mistakes. Probably copious amounts and at regular intervals. It should be expected as your product is unique and hence the challenges faced by your product development team will also be unique. Facing failures is normal, in fact, it would be abnormal if you manage to finish a market-ready product without making a single setback! But don’t let initial failures get you down or give up entirely. You need to have the strength of will to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and pushing through.
The critical thing to focus on is that you learn from your mistakes instead of letting them slow you down. Take a moment to analyse how you got there. What led to your failure? Inspect your mistakes in detail to get a clear idea of where you went wrong, and go back and start from that point after initiating corrective measures. If you can’t identify exactly what went wrong and where it is not a bad idea to start over from the beginning. As your team has already been on this journey before, the process will be much quicker, and it will be easier to identify weaknesses that need to be fixed.
Also Read: Raising Startup Investment: Finding Right Investors & Alternative Funding
8. Know When to Let Loose
It can get daunting to oversee every aspect of a product development process in minute detail. You are just one person, and the efforts that go into your product are the combined effect of a thousand little tasks. But not to worry! You have a fantastic team to handle the back end for you! So, let loose the reins a little when you feel that you are becoming too involved with every small aspect of the product.
development, and trust your team to do you proud. After all, you put together the team, so they are a reflection of your capabilities and this means they will get the work done as well as you, if not better.
You also need to know when to move on. It is important to hone your product till it is at its best form, but too much honing is also not a good thing. You might be trying to achieve perfection, or you might just be reluctant to put months or years of hard work to the test if it doesn't measure up. Either way, you just have to let go and keep moving forward. The critical thing to remember is to move forward always, and to do that, you will need to shed baggage such as self-doubt and fear of rejection.
9. Take Stock of Your Milestones
In the rush of setting milestones and meeting deadlines, you might develop a narrow vision and lose track of your achievements. As you’re running to get things done and cross the finish line, it is easy to forget how far you have come as you will be focused entirely on the end results. This attitude can be detrimental to your product development progress as you are always in a hurry to cross the next task off your checklist. It can leave you and your team feeling exhausted and unmotivated at times. While maintaining a brisk pace is good for your deadlines, it may not bring out the best in everyone on your team.
It is crucial to take moments to look back at your journey and how far you have come from the starting line instead of how far you are from the finishing line. It will make your team feel good about their accomplishments, and a sense of pride will spur them on to deliver better outputs.
10. Learn to Have Fun with It!
It is important to learn to have fun with the whole process of launching a product. You will already be putting a lot of life’s little pleasures on hold to undertake this arduous journey. So, any rose you can stop and smell on the way will have a very positive effect on your psyche. It will make you more productive and help you accomplish more. At the workplace, your team is more likely to deliver better if they also have fun with the process, rather than doing their tasks simply out of obligation.
How can you make it fun, you ask? Well, that is entirely up to you, as each team is different in their own way. Your team might respond well to an impromptu ice-cream party to celebrate the achievement of a particularly difficult milestone, or a pizza lunch to take their mind off impending deadlines. Have fun with it is all we can say!