Scaling Your Product, Doing Things That Don't Scale

As founders, we often want to start any endeavor – especially building a new product or big feature, with the biggest bang. In our minds, we broadcast a fancy message that will garner us with the first 1,000 users in a matter of hours and then we’ll take that traction to the bank. Reality then slaps us in the face when we check our analytics and see that 3 new users signed up – and one of them is our family member.

Doings things that don’t scale sets the foundation for any product, team and market. This means we have to recruit every single first-user, engaging with him in trying to solve his problem, listening to how he solves it, then showing him up right there with our solution to gauge their reactions and hopefully get a smile from him that points towards a future happy client. 

From a product management perspective, by the time that we have an MVP to show, we will also have thought and fleshed-out a a two year roadmap with features to delight our imaginary and perfect user. Resist the temptation!

Being a product manager is usually a race against our backlog, where there will always be improvements and new stories that compete for our blessing to get into the next sprint. Start small, strive to give the user the best experience you can afford, sit down with him/her (or on a call) and manually go through the intended process, take notes and iterate for tomorrow when you do it again with the next user and so on. Don’t underestimate the power of compounded growth as you keep grinding delightful experiences for your users week in and week out.

If you have 100 users, you need to get 10 more next week to grow 10% a week. And while 110 may not seem much better than 100, if you keep growing at 10% a week you’ll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you’ll have 14,000 users, and after 2 years you’ll have 2 million.
— Paul Graham

Now, for the team this will be when bonds are made or broken. All departments touching the product will be in a rush to automate customer service, onboarding flows and even feedback collection, again RESIST. It shows indifference for the users and a lack of empathy to getting to know the people that will help you get to a point where you could automate the right processes.

With friction comes progress and going through this initial phase will generate the right kind of friction, as teams usually will have a proto-persona in mind but a different one in paper. As everyone does things that don’t scale, each team member will be eager to come back and share what they learned and saw on the field.

Lastly, the market, where there is the reputation aspect that doing things that don’t scale gives you. Going door-to-door and helping users set up their profile ala Airbnb origins, will get you known as attentive and leave a positive impression. Consulting your users on how to solve their problems will give you referrals from users looking for the same solution, and of course this doesn’t scale which is why we recommend it.

In the initial stages, it’s feasible to go out of the way to help every single user and deliver value to them. Offering one-to-one sessions where you understand their problems and solve them is an excellent way to build a connection with them.
— Nitesh Agrawal

This post is the first in our Growth series to give anyone building a product – specially product managers, the right mindset to start with this exciting phase in any company’s journey. If you would like personal coaching, consulting or a group experience, schedule an appointment with us to get you going to building great products.

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