In this post I want to discuss setting up your CORE TEAM, and the skill sets needed to be represented in that team for success.
One of us is not greater than all of us. It is very rare that someone can dream up an idea and take it to market without others being involved. Decisions need to be made around ownership, leadership and vision for success. You may have an outstanding idea and feel confident you have the skills to produce the software, but a common assumption seems to be that the Field of Dreams scenario is an everyday occurrence; however, it is not. You know this story…
Ray Kinsella, a corn farmer in Iowa. While walking through his cornfield one evening, he hears a voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.” I have heard this story many times in the software industry, and it’s just plain untrue.
Years ago, I remember sitting in an airport lounge in Auckland waiting for a flight to Wellington. I picked up a business magazine and read a story about a software company that created a superior product in cloning computer software systems. Another company in the market had also created a product that did the same thing but was not considered to be on par with the competitor’s product. The difference though, was that the company with the inferior product had a great marketing team and far outsold the better product. The lesson I learned from this is that you may have the best product in the market, but if no one knows about it, it truly is a field of dreams, with no reality.
For an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) to realise success, it needs to execute in three key areas; Product, Marketing and Sales.
If you don’t have these skills represented on your team, you need to address the gaps.
To get to Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in nine months, you only need one great developer/architect; it is essential that this person is a great time manager and well plugged in with the rest of the team. If possible, they should have worked on many past projects, and in our case they would come with deep experience in the Common Data Service (CDS) and all the technologies that make up the Power Platform.
They should have experience with the various services provided in Azure as well as Office 365 and rationally choose the right technologies to meet the requirements of the MVP. As a bonus they should know how to use Azure DevOps effectively.
As the teams grow other developers can be added. An excellent example of what I am suggesting has been used very effectively with one of the largest Microsoft Business Applications ISVs currently in the market. It’s important to note that the Core Team does not need to be in the same location. Remote working teams can be very effective.
Marketing is one of the hardest things for an ISV to execute on. ISVs build products expecting that it will market and sell itself, and this just plain does not happen. Hope is not a strategy, and I would say the same about Word-of-Mouth marketing, it can be too slow in a crowded market.
I do not suggest you go out and find a marketing company. Marketing should be done in house for a start-up; you need to find someone that can be part of your core team that has experience in Business-to-Business (B2B) product marketing. You will want to get your brand on point to start with and then once you have your brand mark (logo) and name secured you need to get the following minimums in place.
- Social Media Setup
- LinkedIn Business Page
- Facebook Business Page
- Implement a content creation strategy for your website and YouTube
- Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to amplify your content
- Most Importantly create a COMMUNITY around your product/brand (this will require a dedicated strategy)
Whatever you do, don’t consider marketing is something you can solve by throwing money at it. No matter your size you do not have the amount of money needed to be successful in spending money on bad marketing. I recommend you take a read of this book by Seth Godin This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
If marketing is the first area that new ISVs often do not do well at, sales is the second. Sales are the lifeblood of any business, if there are no sales, before long there will be no business. For sales to be effective you need a sales system, not rock star salespeople, but a system that great people can learn and use, making it scalable. Get someone on your team who understands how to build a sales system and teams for your product.
One of the most successful examples I can give you of this is story of HubSpot and the systems they built to train salespeople to sell HubSpot. There is so much more I can add here, but I think I should write a dedicated post.
Leadership is the glue that binds the core team together. It establishes the culture of your ISV. Get it right, and it will attract great people not just to your core team, but also to the wider team as it grows. Outstanding leadership will validate ideas quickly and often pivot to lead the company to success. Leadership that identify skills gaps, black spots and opportunity to attract top talent to the team.
Leadership that does not let ego get in the way but motivates the entire team to win. Leadership that understands the importance of profit first and that a healthy business is a lean business. All this creates a business where the entire core team is there for much more than a paycheck.
In writing this post, I realize that all these areas need to be unpacked in more detail to do them justice. I see future posts coming. 😊
What do you think?