✔ It's all about passion! - Passion 3: Product [part 2]

Note: This is the 11th excerpt from my book "It's all about passion" which I wrote and shared as a gift to my readers and my Nozbe customers on my 35th birthday. You can get the entire digital ebook (PDF, Mobi or ePub) for free or buy from Amazon (all proceeds go to charity).

I will be publishing the entire book as a series of blog posts over the next weeks here every Friday, so you can read it bit by bit (I know you might be too busy to read an entire book at once). I'm also doing it to be able to "talk to you" about each chapter in the comments section below, so make sure to post your feedback, questions and your passion-related stories in the comments. Thank you for your passion!

"It's all about passion!" - The 7 types of passion I discovered over 7 years of running my productivity startup

It's all about passion - 11

Passion 3: Product

Learn to say NO

Saying NO is a skill. Especially in relationships. I'm this kind of person who'd always want to make everyone happy and I used to say YES all the time. Until my commitments list just grew so big that I simply couldn't keep up with it and almost blew out. Every relationship counselor will tell you that you've got to be assertive - you have to know when it's perfectly OK to say no and how to do it in order not to hurt the other person's feelings.

Saying NO to feature requests is one of the most important skills a startup team can master.

When users are passionate about your product, they'll send you lots of feature requests. It's a good thing. You should read them and reply. But it doesn't mean you're supposed to say YES to all these requests.

People send in some great ideas... but many of these are good just for their particular case... and you want to build a great product for all of your customers. You need to make sure you say NO. It hurts. It may disappoint some folks. But it needs to be done like this. There's just no other way around it.

Politely decline... like the Japanese do. Learn from them.

At Nozbe we have a great (and a very passionate) user base in Japan and I get to travel there from time to time. It's an amazing country and these are some of the most amazing people I know. They have impeccable manners and they never say NO directly in your face. They do decline but as they don't want to hurt your feelings, instead of flat-out saying NO they just seem confused.

Act confused, too. That's what I do when I get a feature request I don't want to implement - I ask back, explain why this doesn't make sense in my app. I try to show the customer how I really do appreciate their support, but what they are asking is simply something that can't be done without hurting other people's user experience. And hardly anyone wants to hurt other folks.

After all, you are a curator of your own museum. Act like one.

Jason Fried of 37signals has this great analogy of startup "builders" being like curators of a museum. You get to choose which artworks go into your museum. You know the size constraints of your museum. You feel the flow of a visit in your museum. You are a curator and you get to say YES and NO.

The same applies to your startup product. You get to choose. You know what's best. Especially if you eat your own dog-food and really have the feel for what you're building.

It's great for your customers to suggest things. It's your job to listen and learn from them. But it's your duty to curate your own product and be bold enough to say NO when you have to. You have the full picture and the vision of your product. You see the whole thing. You decide.

"Whether it is building an intricate replica model of an ancient ship, or pulling an all-nighter to write a song or map out an idea for a new business, you do it because you love it. If you can put <> at the center of your efforts, you’re more likely to make an impact in what matters most to you." - Scott Belsky, author of “Making Ideas Happen”

Kaizen - continuous improvement

I know, I can't stop talking about the Japanese but bear with me this last time. They have this word "Kaizen" that stands for continuous improvement. Step by step. Japanese believe that great products are being built with very small steps forward. Even a small change can make the product better. The devil lies in the details, as they say.

Keep improving and shipping. And repeating the process.

Seth Godin in his presentation about "the lizard brain" said something really worth emphasizing here: "Your job is not to be creative. You're too creative already. Your job is to ship."

That's it. Keep shipping. Keep changing the product. Keep tweaking the copy of your marketing web site. The copy of your app. Even a small detail can improve your user's experience. Just change a dialog box, rename a button... and suddenly many of your users seem less confused and stop emailing what you consider "stupid" questions.

It's great you're working on a "major rewrite" of your software but your customers really don't care about it unless you ship it. I know. We have been working on version 2.0 of Nozbe for almost a year now. Many of our customers are getting tired of waiting and want to move on. That's why we keep on improving the 1.9.X version of Nozbe as much as we can to keep them happy and productive while we finish the final touches on Nozbe 2.0.

Ship as often as you can. Keep making small improvements.

Many startups implement "agile programming" techniques or SCRUM or other systems... and it's great - but what it ultimately comes down to is to be able to quickly iterate and ship a new version in a matter of weeks or days... and not months or years. You are a fast-moving startup. Your advantage over Microsoft and Google is that you can ship quickly and early and constantly (although check out the Google Chrome team - they ship really fast and iterate very quickly).

My team at Nozbe is by no means perfect here. While we keep iterating on our product faster than we used to, supporting all of the major platforms has its challenges, but we do it anyway to be able to offer Nozbe for: Web, Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android. But ask our customers, we're getting better at this, we ship at least one new version of Nozbe per month... and with Nozbe 2.0 we're finally there to have continuous deployment in place and ship each version even faster.

This is when your passion for your product really shines - when you learn to ship quickly, work on the details and care for the small things and get to show it to the people who care about your product as much as you do - your customers.

"We do many things at Automattic, but our core passion is creating great products. When we see something we feel isn’t our best work it bugs us until we’re able to loop back and iterate on it — it’s a blessing and a curse." - Matt Mullenweg, creator of Wordpress

To be continued... or get the book free and continue reading :-)

Question: Can you say "NO" easily? If so, how did you learn it? If not - what is the most difficult about it?

Posted on Friday, October 17, 2014 (passionbook,product)

Like this post? Subscribe to my newsletter, and every 2 weeks you'll receive updates from me. You'll also get you my latest book for FREE as a thank-you: "No Office Apps: How the Nozbe team uses modern technologies to communicate better and get more done.".