At super young companies – ones that are just trying to keep their head above water (most companies in the early days!) – or even those that are have received some venture funding but haven’t yet found a great cadence with customers, there is a large chance that the work that you do doesn’t really matter.
Here’s what I mean: in a recently-founded company, you are trying to find traction in the marketplace with your products and services. You’re throwing lots of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. There’s a great chance that you spend hours on something that never sees the light of day or that doesn’t become a commercially successful element of the business. You work on a feature here or a product line extension there because it’s promised as the next best thing. But then the plant never takes roots. The customers never show up. You begin to get frustrated because all that hard work was for nothing. Your feel work Simply. Doesn’t. Matter.
We’ve had some of these cases ourselves! The best example that jumps to mind includes the mock trial/moot court program (February – May 2015). There were dozens of hours spent on developing this product line and when push came to shove, we didn’t commit to making this a reality. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on the cutting room floor. That’s not to say we’ve ruled out this product forever, but just for the time being, it wasn’t working. (Though Hans did get a pretty sweet Insta out of it).
With a company in our stage right now, there’s less of a chance that this happens because we have achieved a certain degree of product/market fit. We understand now that our services are highly in demand in the marketplace and so there isn’t (at least I hope!) the feeling that work we do isn’t providing value to our customers. That’s not to say the possibility of this misstep has vanished – of course we still might chase some wild geese – but the probability is significantly reduced for the time being. We get to work on projects that directly impact the clients Every. Single. Day.
Unfortunately, that same danger exists big companies – there are tons of projects that are developed for years, then subsequently killed because of an internal political reason or because the company strategy changed or because the market changed. While I certainly hope that we never get to this point in terms of internal politicking, it’s something we need to be ever more mindful of as we grow – to ensure that before we commit to projects and initiatives, we are ready to dive deep because that work matters.
[Let me put forward here too a belief that I hold onto which is that you should change your behavior when the information/market changes. So there will inevitably be these moments in the future when we are working towards something and we receive new information which makes us backtrack or steer in another direction. That, in my mind, is a good thing. It’s a prudent thing. But the feeling of this constantly happening is demoralizing and I can tell you first-hand happened quite frequently in the early days.]
Right now we are in a sweet spot of growth where, by necessity(!), we can only really work on the stuff that matters the most. If we don’t, we die. If we do, we get to play another round of the game. We get to take another turn. Another swing of the bat.
I find this an incredibly compelling aspect of where we are in the growth of the company – that without every single person’s effort, we can’t keep the ship cruising straight. If a single person on our team right now was to stop rowing, we would run aground or steer off course. Everyone’s work matters – we aren’t at risk of sending partners on wild goose chases because 1) we are seeing great traction in our core offerings now, and 2) we aren’t to the point where we have so much time to develop products/services where the winds can change mid-development and knock us off course.
Every day, I know the work that I’m doing is directly impacting the lives of our clients and/or the lives of our partners. To me, that is exciting. And I hope it is to you, too.