If you need to catch up:
- Part 1 Best Practices #1 to #3
- Part 2 Best Practices #4 to #7
- Part 3 Best Practices #8 to #10
- Part 4 Bonus Best Practice #1
- Part 5 Bonus Best Practice #2
This summer, during the dog days of summer, as a cure to the summertime blues, the doctor gave you ten best practices for success inspired by the common mistakes that the doctor has seen small/mid-sized vendors do over, and over, and over again for the past twenty years (and, more specifically, mistakes that are costing them deeply). And while the best practices linked above won’t necessarily solve all your problems, implementing all of them should prevent a number of major problems, or at least a number of the major problems that are common to multiple technology companies trying to developer and deliver deviceful delicacies to software shoppers.
We stopped at ten, and two significant bonus, tips because ten is the number talent likes to start with, and most of the other issues the doctor has seen repeatedly (that the tips were designed to address) were either a) less relevant or b) less common or occurred less often. However, every time we enter either an extended recession, or a tech downturn (symbolized by the top employers shedding tens of thousands of workers based on economic expectations and fear and not reality [despite bank accounts richer than some nations]), there is one mistake the doctor sees over and over again. Furthermore, this ONE mistake is very dangerous as it prevents some companies from fully recovering, and sometimes starts the downward fall to insolvency or forced (fire)sale to stay in business. To counter it, we give you Bonus Best Practice #3:
BUILD(UP) DURING A DOWNTURN
The biggest mistake the doctor sees over, and over, and over again during a downturn is pushing off (market) research, development, marketing, hires, and other activities necessary for growth until “sales pick up”. The problem is, in many of these smaller enterprises, they usually barely have the resources to support the current customer base and when “sales pick up”, there’s often not even enough manpower for the implementations, so development is stopped to redeploy developers to implementation in the short term; marketing is stopped as those resources are diverted to partnership development with consultancies and implementers; pre-sales support is diverted to account management; and so on. At the same time, the big companies — who can offer bigger salaries, hire faster, and bring more people on board — are planning for rapid hiring, marketing increases, and accelerated development as soon as the market starts to swing up again. They may not be hiring more, spending more on marketing, or augmenting the dev team, but as they have enough resources already, they are preparing to do this. As a result, when the market starts to ramp up, they’re ready to go full swing, be everywhere, demonstrate they are working on a new-and-improved roadmap, and address the major market concerns.
In order to grow as a small/mid-size operation, you need to fully capitalize on up-swings, and the only way to do that is to:
- have marketing plans and content in place
- have (pre-)sale position descriptions ready to go and outlets identified
- have optimized implementation processes in place (so you can do more with less)
- have partner training courses and support ready to go (so you can augment when you need to)
- have identified the most critical features that companies want that you don’t have
- have identified the most innovative/unique/valuable improvements you can start working on and sell as part of the roadmap
- have done your market research so you can go head-to-head with the big boys who will be ready (and win without properly prepared competition)
- and so on
AND THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE DURING THE DOWNTURN!
When the upswing starts, it’s too late. Even experienced experts can’t always move fast enough when your more forward thinking peers have been working on their plans in the background since the downswing started and are ready to hit the market full force, while you’re struggling to figure out what to do now that companies are spending again.
Now, the doctor understands that hiring can be an issue because you don’t know precisely when the upswing is going to begin, and if it only takes 3 months of work to get the marketing plan, content, and pre-sales artifacts in place, you don’t want to hire that person 6 months before the upswing. Or maybe it only takes 3 weeks to identify the right improvements to the platform to optimize the implementation process, and then your developers just need to do it. Maybe you only need partner support for training and services with an optimized implementation process, and that’s just completing put-off documentation which only takes a few months (until more platform capabilities are developed). And you don’t have to code features your customer base won’t be ready to use for another two years that take six months to build for another eighteen months, but you do have to know what they are, how long they will take, and how you will sell them. So timing is difficult.
But nowhere did the doctor say you had to hire! Just that you needed to prepare. And, as per Bonus Best Practice #1, Get the Help You Need, you can always hire a contractor or a consultant to get this done, and then, when the upswing starts, sales start coming in, and the marketing, research, product roadmap/management, (pre-)sales, and partner support needs become more intensive, then hire full-time on staff people once the workload for a specific function becomes almost full time.
In other words, the key to success is to get ready to get ‘er done, and get ready to get ‘er done NOW!