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We DO Know Better Than You. Seriously.

by Ari Abraham

We DO Know Better Than You. Seriously.

Sep 10, 2018

INT. CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY

A massive STORYMAP composed of Post-Its is up on a wall, across from a WHITEBOARD filled up with the company’s value propositions.

On the table is a MASSIVE SHEET OF PAPER filled up with a LEAN BUSINESS CANVAS.

ARI, 30s from Philosophie, is standing and surveying the room alongside STEVEN, 30s, the FOUNDER of a product that is trying to go to market.

Steven: So we’ve spent almost a hundred thousand dollars building something that doesn’t address our user’s real pain point? It just replicates software our customers are already using?

Ari: Yes. I suspect the team you were working with didn’t really do a deep enough competitor audit. Clearly your revenue model centers on the billing feature. This is the thing you need to build first.

Beat.

Steven: I wish I’d listened to you guys the first time and not opted for a cheaper dev shop.

***

That is a situation I have been in with a client. It happens more often that you think.

We are in the business of people. Yes, we get paid to make things, but really we are in the industry of helping people be better makers. At least I like to think so. The product is only as good as the folks making it.

Sometimes, the people can be the blocker to their own success. Building a product is no easy feat. Building a successful one is a whole other story. So we get why people are cautious when they come to us. There is a difference, however, between caution and plain lack of long-term vision.

One of the benefits of working at a consultancy that has worked with hundreds of startups is that you see patterns. We’ve learned the lessons much better and faster than anyone else. Over my time here, here is a path I’ve often seen clients take.

The First Encounter

You’ve got a customer need you’ve identified. A hot little gap in the market you’re just dying to exploit and get some first-mover advantage on. You come in, you talk to us about the problem. We jam on it with you and then we make a recommendation.

Very often we know if a client is truly ready or not. If they’re not, this is where they’ll say, “You’re too expensive for me.” We might try to make it work, but most of the time we part ways on good terms and wish you well. Sure, we want the work but it’s critical to us that we get to add value from the start. Working on innovative, successful products is something we go “full Bhagwan” about. We won’t bite if you’re not ready to set a project up for that outcome.

You Get Your (Typically Offshore) Team

You’ve got a team of devs together. They cost a fraction of what we do, and they will do anything you tell them to do. What hasn’t sunk in yet is that you’re a founder and more often than not, you don’t have a CTO yet. You have a lot on your plate besides just the building of the product.

Your developers have no point of view on the product or the business or your customers. They’re never going to ask you for your revenue model, what the competitive landscape looks like or push back when they think there is a better path to take.

They just want the specs to build to. They’re order-takers. Not partners. No one is paying attention to the Agile principal of Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.

You’re screwed, you just don’t know it yet.

Way Down In The Hole

You started with $250K. You’ve burned $100K. You start to demo a build for potential customers only to learn about three competitors that you didn't find in your Google searches. You thought you knew who the established players were but you have no way of articulating your value proposition against theirs.

On top of that you discover usability nightmares because you let the devs define the user experience without any input from real customers. Not only that, but you surface new customer problems that present opportunities even more lucrative than the one you have been pursuing.

Problem is, the team can’t pivot. They don’t come equipped with the lateral thinking skills and problem-solving ingenuity that a consultancy brings to the table. Their response is once again: well, tell us what you want us to do. Oh yeah, you also signed a fixed scope contract. Good luck with the costly change-order.

Now you KNOW you’re screwed.

Welcome Back

I’m not a fan of tech related blog posts with a Steve Jobs quote but here’s one that matters in this context:

“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

You have a very clear vision now of what the product should be. We help you validate that hypothesis and we help you build the best product to serve that opportunity and capitalize on your revenue model. We are a partner for you. We take care of your product like one of our own. We surround you with a team that is designed to help you get to success. This team is also prepared to have the tough conversations with you when a pivot is needed.

You see rapid progress like never before. There are good days, there are hard days, but what matters is you feel heard, you feel valued, and you can see your vision being realized. Every Philosopher on your team is constantly running experiments, testing designs and shipping builds towards that sought after, ideal end state.

So What Next?

You’ve read this but you’re probably still skeptical.

No worries - hit us up on acts@philosophie.is

Let’s chat.

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Ari Abraham is a Philosophie Product Strategist of American mind, Malaysian body, and British soul. Ari believes that good product is never in conflict with the betterment of humanity. Prior to Philosophie, Ari worked as an organizational designer with NOBL and Undercurrent. By night, he spends his hours honing his craft as a writer.

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