Growing in Unison

There are many dimensions to a business:

  • Product
  • Support
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Partners
  • Vision

At any given time, the business can be growing (or shrinking) along one or many of these dimensions. Early on, I thought that launching a business was all about the product. But now, I'm starting to see that the product is just one part of the business, and that no single one of these dimensions is more important than any other.

The first lesson I've learned is that whenever one of these dimensions is growing faster than the others, it can lead to pain:

  • When you've spent 6 months working on the product, without equally investing in finding and talking to customers, it will be painful
  • When you quickly gain customers but don't have a big enough team to give them great support, it can be painful
  • When you have a beautiful roadmap and vision of the future, and a backlog of features customers really want, but not enough developers to build them, it can be painful
  • When you spend all your time on marketing and promotion, but haven’t invested in a product that can meet the expectations, it's going to be painful

To avoid pain, all of these dimensions need to grow in unison. When they aren't, it looks like this:

Dimensions of the business. Numbers are arbitrary, to give you a sense.

Right now, our pain point is support. We want to give everyone a great experience with the product and to be as helpful and responsive as possible if people encounter issues. But we're growing, and so is the support load, and getting through it can easily occupy most of the day. It's not a problem that we can't overcome, but it is an example of where we haven't grown uniformly and are therefore feeling pain.

Tomorrow, I'm interviewing candidates for a support role to try to add some balance. And that's the second lesson: as I get better at this, I hope I'll be able to anticipate when one of these dimensions is going to start to lag, and to be more prepared. Ideally, I would have hired someone to help with support 3 months ago, so that by now they’d be an expert.

A picture of me

Welcome, my name is Paul Stovell. I live in Brisbane and work on Octopus Deploy, an automated deployment tool for .NET applications.

Prior to founding Octopus Deploy, I worked for an investment bank in London building WPF applications, and before that I worked for Readify, an Australian .NET consulting firm. I also worked on a number of open source projects and was an active user group presenter. I was a Microsoft MVP for WPF from 2006 to 2013.