Monthly Archives: June 2014

That’s Just a Feature

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

It’s just a feature, not a product.

It is a popular refrain from skeptics who want to sound intelligent about a new innovation, product or company. On the surface it sounds insightful because it draws a line between a product that stands on its own (“product”) and something that solves a small problem and cannot stand on its own (“feature”). It is hard to refute as it is a subjective statement and easy to justify.

It is also meaningless.

Dismissing something new as a “feature” ignores the fact that every product starts by solving a small problem. When you are starting from scratch, you don’t have the time or the resources to build a perfect product that solves a big problem so you carve out a small part of that problem to solve. Whether you follow the Lean methodology and build a Minimum Viable Product or simply suffer from the resource scarcity that follows starting a company, your initial product will be simple and basic. That is a good thing.

Many successful companies follow a common progression during their growth:

Feature -> Product -> Platform

If your business has potential (see Are You Solving a Problem), you should be able to prove it by starting with a feature. From that feature you can build a complete product which, if also successful, will form the basis for a platform on which additional products can be built. Companies like Facebook, Google and Sony have all been built this way.

So if you find a skeptic that dismisses your idea as a feature instead of a product, don’t let that get you down. Instead, explain to that person the bigger problem you are tackling. If they still don’t understand, then I suggest ignoring their opinion. Life is too short.



Illustration made available via Public Domain

Recruiting is a form of Sales

Starting on the first day of your new company, 3118776394_d88167cc3eone of your most important jobs will be recruiting a team around you. That includes co-founders, employees and even your supporting cast like lawyers and accountants. Anyone that works on behalf of your company is someone you will need to recruit as the best people always have many options available to them.

Many people think of recruiting as interviewing. The traditional model for recruiting is to write a job description, field resumes and then interview candidates who need to prove you to that they deserve the job. If someone does, you offer them the job and they accept it. It is a very self-centric way to think about recruiting because you focus on your own need instead of the needs of the candidate. It is also a great way to fail.

Recruiting is a two way street. You need to make sure that the candidate can do the job but you must also make sure they want the job. It is critical that you make your recruiting process equal parts evaluation and selling so that you maximize the chances of closing the best people. The best way to think about recruiting is that every single candidate that talks with you, whether you hire them or not, should walk out of your interviews wanting to work for your company.

Every single candidate that talks with you, whether you hire them or not, should walk out of your interviews wanting to work for your company.

So, how do you sell your company during an interview?

Selling your company to candidates takes practice and the successful sales pitch will vary depending on the candidate. Note that selling your company is not the same as allowing the candidate to ask you questions. Selling is proactive. Sales people exist specifically because you cannot expect customers to just throw their money at you, in the same way you can’t expect candidates to magically want to work for you.

Here are some ways to make sure you make the case for your company:

  • Ask the candidate what criteria they are using to select their next job and take the time to understand them. Then go through that criteria one by one to show how your company not only meets the criteria but well exceeds it. Listening to the candidate and understanding their perspective is always better than just tossing around the same talking points.
  • Emphasize what makes your company unique, something they can’t get anywhere else. Is it the culture, the technology, the customers? Whatever it is, make sure the candidate has a strong association between your company and your unique characteristics.
  • Give anecdotes about why other people (including you) have chosen your company, and what their life has been like after joining. People love to hear that others who made the same decision worked on cool projects, got promoted quickly or were able to do things they have never done before.
  • Make it personal for them. Talk about how their background makes them the perfect fit for your company and how they will make your company more successful. Candidates that feel like you know them and value them will build a more personal connection.

When making the case for your company, remember that repetition is the key to marketing. If you feel that something is really important for them to consider in their decision, don’t be afraid to bring it up a few times.

It should go without saying, but it is more important to be honest than persuasive. If you lie to a candidate, and tell them what they want to hear, it will inevitably come out and cause more harm than good. Most candidates would prefer to hear the honest story of your company, both good and bad, instead of only the good or lying about the bad. You will be surprised how persuasive the truth can become.

Square Peg, Round Hole 

Even after making your case effectively, you still might not be able to convince an amazing candidate to join your company. Often, this is because the job you have is not exactly what they are look for in their next job. This is where selling becomes front and center in your process because a sales person never goes into a customer with only a single product to sell them. Being flexible and adapting to customer challenges is what makes effective sales people.

If you are faced with an amazing person who you want on your team, you should not be afraid to change the job or create a new job that better matches what they want to do. If the person is an engineer who wants to do product management, and you think they can, create a hybrid product/engineering position. If the person is in sales but wants to do marketing, create a customer development job where they can do both. Truly amazing people are few and far between, so if you find one you want them on your team in whatever form that might take.

Recruiting is a team sport

In the end, candidates will meet some if not all of your team as part of the recruiting process. If you are the only one selling, then your chances of closing a great person are low. Everyone on your team should be following these same guidelines and making the case for your company at every step of the process.

Go through your own recruiting process yourself so you see it from the candidate’s perspective.

Don’t assume that people on your team know how to effectively interview and recruit, be sure to train them and help them practice before talking to candidates. One great way to do that is to go through your own recruiting process yourself so you see it from the candidate’s perspective.

There is no substitute for a great team. More than anything else you do in starting your company, recruiting your team will have the biggest impact on your future success. If you are successful in building an amazing team and make sure they are happy in what they do, your company will start to attract more amazing people who want to be part of a great team. When that happens, you have made your team a competitive advantage – one that will pay huge dividends down the line.

Image made available via Creative Commons by BFI Business Furniture, Inc.