When I launched my software development company, I had one major mission: to design software that initiates change and creates a compelling user experience. I hoped the results would lead to meaningful and sustainable relationships between the user and the software.
But like any startup, the challenges were endless, from raising funds to building out the executive team. And the more I spoke with other CEOs and founders — both in the software development industry and beyond — the more I witnessed the similar struggles that all entrepreneurs face. R ecently, I spoke with a business partner who is launching another startup, and he asked for some pointers. The following is what I told him — the most important pieces of advice that I believe can have a major impact, particularly for startups in the software development industry.
Focus On Quality
Quality is everything, and it supersedes quantity. Many startups make the mistake of pushing too much product or too many services out too early, without worrying about the quality. Take time in the beginning to relentlessly refine your product until it’s better than everything else out there.
For software companies, deadlines make this tricky. Some clients will ask for quick turnaround time, but make sure you stress the importance of quality first, even if it does take extra time. Provide a client with a high-quality product, and you’ll have a customer for life. But provide them with something so-so — even if they ask for something quick — and you can say goodbye to their business.
When one of our major energy clients had a tight deadline, I stepped in and underscored the importance of quality over time. We secured an extra two weeks and were able to create a far better product. This led to additional work, and that client remains in our top three on our roster.
Seek Only Top Talent, And Spread Their Passion
Just as you should deliver top-quality products, you should also seek only top talent, even if it costs more. In my experience, paying a higher salary during the initial stages is worth it when you can serve a client with only the best. This also helps your business’s sustainability, creating a steady revenue flow.
Resumes say a lot about experience and prior success, but make sure to conduct your own research on every prospective employee. There are many gems out there with minimal experience who have the energy and passion to achieve much more, but often you can only see this through an interview.
On the subject of passion, most CEOs and company founders have this. Make sure to express your passion daily, as it spreads quickly and can have the same effect as continued education for your staff.
Networking is a true factor for success, especially for a startup. Try to meet and befriend people who are successful within your industry. The easiest way is by becoming connecting on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as attending relevant conferences.
Through networking at conferences, I met the founder of a mobile app development agency and a digital marketing agency. We’ve since worked together, assisting each other by essentially bartering services. We’ve become partners in a few business ventures. I’ve also received some software work from his clients, and in return I’ve sent some marketing projects from my software clients his way.
Focus On Customer Service
Remember the adage that the customer is always right? This will never change, even if those customers are actually wrong. Make clients feel secure, and help guide them towards the correct solution. Begin to build trust in the first conversation, whether it’s through an email on a lead form or over a phone call.
Relentlessly train those who are on the “front lines” of customer service, and make sure they allow the client to do most of the talking. Our own rule is to let the customer drive the conversation. Customers may answer their own questions without even realizing it. Do this both for satisfied and angry customers, though more so with the latter. We hold frequent training for our customer service reps, and there are hundreds of webinars that can help in this area.
Revisit The “Why” Frequently
This takes discipline, but remember to revisit the “why” often. Ask yourself: Why did I start this business? What value am I looking to add for my customers? Your reasons will vary, but try to step away from the distractions to remind yourself why you started your business in the first place.
I began my company because I never felt that software I was using provided a compelling experience. It helped, but the full experience wasn’t there and the products I was using didn’t feel all that unique. So although I face hundreds of daily distractions as CEO, I always remind myself of why I started my company, and it helps me keep a sharp focus on delivering only the best products.
Study Trends In Your Industry And Embrace Change
This is a no-brainer, but many startups get so absorbed in their own ecosystem that they forget to look outside. A constant study of the trends within your industry is a must to stay competitive, and if huge changes are making significant impacts, embrace them.
I block off time daily to read the latest publications from Forbes to TechCrunch. I want to know what’s going on every second within my industry, and I encourage my executive team and employees to do the same. You may discover a new piece of technology that others have yet to use, or enhancements to some technology you are already using. Continuous education is necessary to remain competitive, so make it a practice from the beginning.
Startup struggles are real, and they only compound as you scale. But practicing these tips can help you sideline those hurdles. Above all, don’t waste time getting going. If you truly believe in what you’re doing, there’s no better time to start than now.
Written by Scott Stiner.
This article is also published on Forbes.