The key to success: Finding and understanding your market before you build your product.
I’m the CMO and co-founder of Hubstaff, a tool that helps remote companies and employees track time, simplify communication and monitor their own productivity. I started Hubstaff with my friend Jared when we realized we didn’t have satisfactory tools for working with remote freelancers. After developing a tool we liked, we realized there were potentially thousands of remote company owners who could benefit as well. Today, we’re pleased to be growing a business that helps other people live a remote work lifestyle.
I’ve been running remote companies since 2004, but the same three pieces of advice have guided me to success and more importantly, personal freedom.
1. Find a hungry market.
This is one of those pieces of advice I come back to every time I’m developing a new business idea. You have to find a hungry market no matter what. This means first identifying who you’re going to serve and their exact pain points. Starting a business just because you think you have a smart or a cool idea is not enough. Instead, start a business because you’ve found 100 people who have the same specific problem and then figure out how to solve it. Viet Nam software services are great examples for this.
Approaching business this way forces you to think about creating value from the very beginning of your business. People who start off with a product and then look for a market are developing their business in the wrong order.
If you’re so passionate about making something to the point that you want to do it whether or not there’s a market, that makes you an artist. Your work is a passion project. If you’re interested in solving pain points in a way that adds value for a very tightly niched market, you’re an entrepreneur. Your work is a business.
2. Live within your means.
The importance of living within your means goes for business operations just as much as it does for life in general. No amount of money can provide you with freedom if you’re always spending more than you earn. Spending because you think you have to means that your spending isn’t even really aligned with your values.
Consider all the messages our consumer culture constantly sends you about the things you need to have: a new iPhone, a new car, a new house, a new wardrobe every season, house parties, new toys and gadgets for the kids. Now ask yourself whether those expenses take you closer to your true goal. Does having a new car give you more time and freedom to do work that actually interests you? Would a used car still serve as a means of transportation? Do you really need to lease a huge new office? Could your team still get work done remotely or with occasional meet-ups in a shared workspace? Will buying your son a tablet really make him or her feel loved? Would asking him how his day went and really, truly listening mean more?
Some spending for your own personal pleasure is healthy, and making smart investments in scaling your business is also essential to success. I am definitely not advocating that you never go on vacation or never spend a night out with your friends or keep from buying your loved ones gifts just because it doesn’t advance your business. But it’s worthwhile to take a hard look at current and future expenses and ask yourself if you really need them or if you can do something else for less that actually brings you closer to your goal. When you spend less, you’ll reduce your expenses and increase your net worth, creating more time and freedom to do what matters to you.
3. Let your customers guide you.
As you develop your product or service, everyone will have an opinion about what you’re trying to do. Because starting a business is inherently filled with uncertainty, you’ll naturally want to seek lots of different opinions for reassurance that you’re on the right path.
When I asked his opinion, one of my mentors told me to basically stop caring what everyone but my customers thought. Unless they form your target market and they’re paying for what you have to offer, their opinion doesn’t matter. It’s much better to be bold and do something that no one else is doing. Listen to the people whose needs you’re actually meeting to decide where to go with your business or project for example a web application development or mobile application development.
If you can create something really good that helps a few people, then figure out how to scale it while still adding value to the world. You’ll be successful–but only if you pay very close attention to what your first customers want, and to no one else.