When trialing our solutions our clients often ask us – “It seems like this can also solve these additional problems we have, can we do that right now?“
And I always want to say yes and tell them what they desperately want to hear – ‘yes we can see you have a problem with that and yes this can solve it’. But normally I don’t. I tell them about the problems we can solve straight away and what we are focused on right now. Which seems a bit oxymoron-ish (I know this is not a word) when you think about customer led development – and yet I still do it.
So why do I think this stance is important for us and other start-ups getting into the same space?
As a small company breaking into a market owned by very established players who also command huge sums of money at times, our world can be a very unreal and distorted place. After all, people commit horrible crimes for much less than the contract price of an ERP implementation. Try explaining a multi $100 million IT project budget overrun to an over 80-year-old and it quickly becomes a challenge to work out how you even start the conversation.
At Adroit we worry all the time about the opportunity cost of government expenditure on IT projects. And yet when we read the press releases by companies, immediately and for a split second, we want some of the $600 million contract for this and $8 million dollar contract for that.
This game we have decided to step up to play in can be overwhelmingly daunting at times and it‘s easy to get lost in the noise of the current players. But we do believe the model as it exists is broken and has to change. So here we are – proving the point and being supported by Local Government clients hungry enough for any alternative to the existing state of play to support us as we grow.
And grow we are, however it is easy to get distracted about how big we need to be, how many staff we should have, the uniform for our in–house baristas and all the potential.
The other night I even found myself drawing up plans for building a basketball half court in our car-park…for when we get bigger.
So when we are asked by our clients about whether we could also develop additional functionality – even whole new software solutions – to solve problems they are experiencing with their existing tools, it is easy to fall into the excitement of the potential, to understand the problem and the pathway to not just solve the problem but create something great.
But our model is not one of providing single solutions for individual customers – we want to provide solutions that work for all government clients with low barriers to implementation and use. And in order to do that we need to make sure our focus is on what we are doing and what we have now. Because what we are trying is already big and complex, and we want to get it right. We don’t want bloat and we don’t want to do things just because they can be done. We want to be proud of everything we do. Getting that right and getting our clients to be proud of us. Doing that…well that already calls for a huge game – distractions won’t help.
Of course, I am not saying we don’t have a pretty solid idea of what we want to get to (and it is more than a half court out back) but…
We don’t have multi-million dollar series A round funding pools, or clients with hidden deep pockets. What we have is boot strapped development we can control, and that means as much as we like to dream about becoming a bigger fish, we also need to ensure right now we are the most dedicated, focused small fish we can be.
Because if we just work on the 100 next potentials we are never going to perfect what we have in front of us right now. Which means the next time a customer does a trial they won’t be asking about the potential, they will be asking why we wasted their time.
We will probably always want to be bigger but at this stage working on what bigger looks like may not actually help us to get there.
PS If you are a start-up looking to join the game and challenge the existing state of play drop me a line – we can’t do it all and are happy to share ideas and requests we have had if you need them.