So here you are, another ordinary day running your microISV. Pretty much like yesterday; not unlike tomorrow.
You’re doing what you’ve done, you’re all nice and cozy in your daily routine. The problem you have is that while you’ve been sleepwalking along, the rest of the world has been very much awake. And unless you wake up and stop drifting you’re going to be like someone falling asleep while driving: fine, until you hit the oncoming truck in the other lane.
Let’s take a little test, shall we? Maybe you don’t need a wake up call and can skip the rest of this post.
- When’s the last time you updated your business plan? Do you even have a plan for your business? You may associate business plans with angel and VC funding where documents by that name are commonly used. The kind of business plan I’m talking about is one where you do the research, thinking and devise a plan to take your company to the next milestone that makes sense. Maybe that’s the next major release – or a new product. Or a major writeup at blog or news site. Real business plans are about the having in place a plan for your business that you – not your competitors’ – define.
- Speaking of competitors, when’s the last time you looked at their sites? Are they mentioning your product by name? Have they added “your” features? Have they come up with something new, different, remarkable? Do you have new competitors you’re not even aware of?
- Everything is the same for your customers in their day-to-day lives as it was six months ago. If that’s the case, please email me – I’d like to find a group of people not affected one way or another by the Global Recession in the past six months. If their cages have been rattled, your cage has been rattled too. Attitudes about spending, buying, purchasing, value are all in a state of flux out there. What are you doing to better align your company to these new realities?
- You’re the same age as you were six months ago. Neat trick! Sorry to break the news to you, but you’re six months closer to checking out, pushing up daisies, leaping into the Great Beyond. That means you have six months less time to do the really big things you wanted to do when you started your company. Maybe that means finally hiring some real or virtual assistant help so you have more time for other matters, or maybe it means it’s time to sell your company altogether. Above and beyond business planning is planning – as best you can – your life. Have you reached the goals you set out for yourself when you started your company? Then maybe it’s time you got some new goals.
So how do you get out of your business rut? Here’s five simple, free or low cost means to get a new point of view on your business:
- Meetup.com. Informally meeting with other people building companies is a great way to get back into the business game. For example, there’s no less than 2,868 entrepreneurial Meetup groups with 331,731 members in 34 countries: good odds that there’s one near you. Why not pick a group and go their next meetup?
- Find a mentor. If you’re stuck when it comes time to figure out where you need to take your company next, why not ask someone whose run a company? In the United States, SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide has 370 chapters and 11,200 working and retired executives helping people like you for free.
- Join an online forum. Two great resources is the Joel on Software Business of Software forum and the community forums at Startup Nation. Putting in a bit of time helping and being helped by your peers is a great way to get some perspective on your own company.
- Ask your customers. When’s the last time you asked your customers what they like and dislike about your software? Sure, you may have done that back in the day when you launched, but what about now? Finding out what your customers think of your software is fundamental to your success, and is something that needs to be done of a regular basis. You can make it happen as easily as firing off a quick email or as in depth as creating an online survey or questionnaire.
- See your product or site with new eyes. Usability testing – a fancy way of saying getting someone new to you try out your service and tell you what’s working or not – used to cost several thousand dollars and take huge amounts of time. Not no more. $29 USD and about an hour, thanks to a new startup called UserTesting.com.
The bottom line here is you can’t afford to pretend you and your software company live in a world where everything stays the same. In fact, given the industry you’re in you have far fewer excuses than most to think this. If you’re not periodically shaking yourself awake, seeing what’s new out there, deciding what’s next for your company, someone else will.