A Business Has 2 Priorities. Only 2.
The two things your business should be focusing on more than anything else, at any stage of development are:
- Product Creation
- Customer Service
Those are the twin-cores of your company. And you can’t exist without them.
Okay, I know that sounds like a big call. But it’s 100% true. Those are literally the only two things that should be the priority for your business or start-up, whether it’s just kicking off the ground or already turning over several million bucks a year. Wherever your company is at, this is going to be true. That’s my guarantee. If I’m wrong, and you can prove it to me, I’ll call myself out in a blog post and admit it. So here goes.
This is the core of any business, whether your product is actually a service (looking at you, web designers, investment bankers & plumbers) a software company (you make spreadsheet apps, iPhone apps or extremely complicated financial modelling software? Tag, you’re it) or a physical card game pitting famous inventors against modern start-up mavens equipped with nuclear missiles. Note: that sounds incredible and I would play it.
A business is nothing more than a phlegm spray in the wind without something to sell.
And I don’t mean the idea of something, I don’t mean a random pitch deck full of hyperbole that you’re passing off as a product when you’re pitching to some faceless panel of billionaire hunters on a Unicorn safari. I mean a product that you have built with your own blood, sweat and tears and are ready to sell to real people in the real world. I mean a product that either improves their lives, lessons their boredom, or makes their job/business easier. And I mean a product that you can provide right now in exchange for some cold cash.
When you’re founding a new business, start-up wisdom is going to tell you that you need a minimum viable product in order to test whether it’s even worth selling. That’s fair enough. But an MVP is still a product, and it’s still something that you can sell.
When you’re working on a company that is already profitable or successful, you need to be investing time into improving your current products and developing new ones that can help provide your customers with better value.
When I was a teenager, I worked at Maccas (for those not Australian – that’s seriously what we call McDonald’s down under) throughout high school. It could be brutal at times. You have no idea how angry some people can get until you are a few minutes late with their burger. One woman told me she was coming back in with her Husband who was going to take my head off with a shovel. Because her nuggets were cold. I learned that people can be mean, nasty and downright inconsiderate. But I also learned that I had a unique power over them. Anytime I was able to provide truly exceptional customer service, I was able to shut down their anger and improve their day. It was actually easy.
Providing great. customer service is as simple as recognising the boundaries of your customer or clients’ expectations and exceeding them.
At Maccas, that could mean a free cheeseburger, a voucher, delivering food with a smile, or just taking the time out to talk to a crying child and calm them down. For your business, it could mean checking in with your customers in person instead of using another one of those Godless “personalised” EDM campaigns.
This is something that so many companies get wrong. It’s also the single easiest thing that any business can ever do to improve their standing. It takes very little budget to make a habit of keeping your customers happy, personalising their experience and exceeding the boundaries of their expectations with every chance you get. Ben Horowitz has a great story about this in his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s about the time he purchased an entire fucking company just to provide value and customer service to an important client. Read it.
Great customer service is useless without a product to support. And a great product is useless without great customer service to ensure that the people paying for what you’re selling out the back of a truck are enjoying it instead of wishing they could get a refund instead of spending hours trying to find your fax number.
I can promise you one thing. If you approach your business with a plan to create a truly well-crafted product that represents your best intentions, and offer it to paying customers with exceptional customer service, you have a better shot at being an entrepreneur than a guy with $100,000,000 who is too focused on disruption to focus on the building blocks of a successful business.