Management February 22, 2010 Last updated September 18th, 2018 628 Reads share

Lost At Sea. Focus on the Lighthouse!

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Two and a bit years ago, I had an idea for a business based on a perceived market need from my own experience as a professional services manager. I did some market research and had that need quantified sufficiently that I felt it was worth investing the time (lots of it) and cash (not an insignificant amount) to turn that idea into a reality. I had a goal, a purpose and a vision of what I wanted to bring to the market.

All was going well, but early in January this year, I started to feel “lost at sea”. Direction and focus seemed to be absent. This was after being dynamic and up-beat before the festive season. So what happened?

Simple! I went out to ask people to test what we had done and got some real and honest feedback. No longer protected by the sweet sounds of friends and family telling me what we were doing was great – I had real business owners and my potential customers giving me their opinions.

I had been so closeted in my own little world of creating something new and useful, that I had lost sight of the fact that some people would not like what I was doing and would tell me that or that they would bombard me with useful suggestions on what the product should do. I hasten to add that all of this feedback was done with the best of intent and goodwill by those who participated and I am extremely grateful (some of them are reading this post – you know who you are!)

So how did I react? Total panic! The concept was a disaster, it was too different to our competitors, it didn’t do certain “things that would be useful”, no-one would use it… blah, blah. There was total re-writes of functionality planned. Emergency sessions were held with my business partner (God bless his patience!). The family was driven up the wall…. and then….

I sat in a meeting with our delivery partners who simply said “your product is designed to do X – this was the vision you brought to us and it still makes sense.  Why are you getting in a panic?”

And that was all it took. Someone on the outside looking in to give me some perspective on what I was doing before I ripped the heart out of the product and put us back from a commercial launch by at least six months. Sure, all of the feedback was taken on board and some of the recommendations are being put in place. Will it be enough to get all of our beta-testers to come on board – nope! But this is ok, we cannot be all things to all people. We have to start small and grow ourselves as the market dictates over the course of time.

Now my head is straight again. There is a definite roadmap to commercial launch again and the panic is over. The lighthouse is in view and the rocks have been avoided (at least for this bit of the journey!)

Have you ever felt like this with your business? What did you do? Or did someone steer you true again?

Barney Austen

Barney Austen

Budding entrepeneur working on software product solutions for business. My background is mainly operational and senior management roles in mobile telecoms and software houses. Areas of expertise include professional services, out-sourcing, team management and general operations management. I've made the conscious decision to create my own company having spent the last 20 years learning in the corporate world. In my contributions to this forum, I will share some insights and learnings that I've picked up along the way and hopefully they will be useful to some or all!

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