Startup Sunday: Mimic the simplicity of coffee for better business results.

What lessons can be learned from a cup of black coffee?

black_coffee

There’s something simple, elegant and incredibly satisfying about a cup of black coffee. No cream. No sugar. Just straight, black, preferably made-by-hand and utterly delicious coffee.

As I work on the Guddina project, I find myself taking a lesson from the drink. Looking over the characteristics that make it so memorable and sought-after, I’ve wondered if I can copy any of them in my daily business workings in order to improve results and achieve success. After much deliberation, and many cups of coffee endured through for the purposes of researching this topic (heh), I definitely think the possibility of learning from coffee is there.

Power in the simplified business

What was the single most contributing factor to Google’s success early on when it fought to gain market share with new internet users around the world? Now, sure, we can’t really know the single biggest reason for Google’s success, and as a startup business owner I can tell you that many factors were absolutely at play from the beginning of Google’s march towards market dominance; but to this day Google is known by millions around the world primarily as the company that has one market down completely over any others:

Search.

But not just any kind of search. It’s a simplified search. Early on, when Yahoo! and Google were battling it out for the top spot as the world’s search engine giant, the masses ultimately chose Google because of how simple and incredibly easy to use the service was.

Just like coffee, Google has thousands of small pieces all working together to make it the beloved search engine of the people. Yet we all know Google is the king of search, much like we know coffee is the king of caffeine. Taking the similarities even further, we see that people use Google in as many different ways (search, email, document editing, social network, etc…) as they might prepare their caffeinated beverage of choice (latte, espresso, affogato, cafe au lait, etc..). One beautifully simple diamond, with a thousand faces to look at.

In our own business, then, simplicity will also be key. Not just in the number and varieties of products that we offer, but also in the software that we use to keep ourselves organized and efficient.

Early on with Guddina, I worked with my team to find the best software and services out there that would suit our needs. We bought different pieces of software for our web store, for keeping track of tasks, to use as a CRM and a CMS, to sync our calendars and to keep track of important files, invoices and documents. Every week something new would be added in so that we could make sure we were using the latest, greatest and more feature-finished pieces of software that were available.

And it was all for naught. Today we use Evernote, Google Apps and Buffer. Nothing else is necessary.

I think a major problem that finds its way into many new startup businesses is that of feature creep. Not the feature creep we are used to when customers ask us to add in a thousand different features to our own products that even they might never use. I mean feature creep where we are searching for features in the products we buy that we might never even use.

  • If your company’s cash flow isn’t looking all that great, you don’t need to install every Twitter client known to man because none of them have all of the features that you want.  You need to get some sales.
  • If your customer’s aren’t happy with the product you’re delivering, you don’t need to look for an alternative to Evernote because you don’t like their Windows 8 version of the app. You need to fix your product.
  • If your employees have low morale, then now is not the time to read how Apple’s new iWork suite is so much better than Officee 365. What you need to do is have a team meeting and get everyone back on board emotionally and mentally.
  • If your sales are at an all-time low and your sales team consists of you, stop trying to find the all-powerful and perfect CRM. Get an excel sheet and start filling it out.

By focusing on completing a task, rather than focusing on the tools we’ll use to complete the tasks, then we will, in fact, actually complete that task! In the first few months of a startup especially, the important thing is not whether you have all of the best software and processes together to run your business at its maximum potential. That potential is going to change drastically anyway because, in all likelihood, so will your products and services that you offer. Instead, build a product, provide great customer support and get your ship off the ground.

You’ll have time in the future to do the rest of that stuff and optimize your team’s tools eventually. Don’t neglect your team when they come to you and say they absolutely need something in order to succeed, but don’t neglect your business just because your team (or maybe yourself) can’t get enough of the “ooh, shiny!” of all of the new software and gadgets that are constantly being announced.

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