One of the hardest things for people to do is “focus.” In today’s fast-moving world it seems even harder because there are so many things that distract us from focusing on the things that really matter. Distractions are inevitable. But I think people who are able to limit (or completely eliminate) the number of distractions in their lives seem to be the most successful.
My motivation for writing on this topic stems from my regular interactions with one of our portfolio clients, let’s call them Plottle. Plottle has a wonderful software that is capable of solving so many problems for both consumers and businesses. Not only does it solve problems, but it is a software that can be applied to so many different industry verticals. This is both good and bad. It’s good because it provides a great platform for expansion into other industry verticals, and it’s bad because of that same reason. Over the last few years, Plottle’s management team has done a great job of demonstrating how the software can be used across many industry verticals. The problem with this approach is that, although they have paying customers, it has created internal confusion around pricing, product development efforts, and sales and marketing. With such a broad product offering and an endless number of markets to target, Plottle’s sales effort have them left them frustrated, confused, and lacking a clear direction for where to go next.
Fortunately for Plottle, they have recognized the need to narrow the scope of their product offerings and focus their efforts on one industry vertical so they can fully maximize and showcase the capabilities of their software and their team. One of the ways they are doing this is building transparency internally on their product roadmap. A product roadmap is (in its simplest form) an outline that highlights high-level initiatives and the planned steps to get there. Product roadmaps are great for aligning customer requests with company strategy and for keeping key stakeholders on task. It’s very easy to succumb to the temptation to continually customize features for key customers, but doing so can be detrimental to the bigger goal. One way to democratize adding product features is to vote internally on which features line up with the metrics your team has put in place as most beneficial. Having a scoring system eliminates subjectivity and keeps everyone moving in the right direction. Once you’ve developed your product roadmap it can be shared among the members of your team and with other key stakeholders. In Plottle’s case, we are at the beginning stages of creating a streamlined and disciplined product roadmap for the company that we believe will ultimately help the company stay focused and moving in the right direction.
My advice to entrepreneurs is, when you’re just starting out, try not to be all things to all people. Instead, focus your efforts on your most promising markets first, build a strong customer base, and then (maybe) expand your product offerings or expand into new markets. Although I know it’s hard, try to stay focused on what matters and do your best to not get distracted by all the noise you will inevitably encounter. Cheers – KM.