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Small Business, Big mistake | Online Business

Welcome to “Small Business, Big Mistake,” a series in which entrepreneurs discuss their worst blunders and offer advice to help you avoid making the same mistakes. Every other Monday, visit On Small Business for the most recent entry.

“Focus” is mentioned in practically every business journal. You’ll hear keynotes at conferences about why you need to keep it up, and dating experts will tell you to work harder on it. But why is that?

I believe it’s because we’ve all been harmed by a lack of focus at some point in our lives; a problem that’s worsened when you’re a business owner. We can’t help but see issues as well as attractive, potentially lucrative solutions.

The thing about focus, though, is that its true worth only becomes apparent in retrospect – a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

The allure of a “huge” chance

EasyBib, our first product, was a hit because it made the process of preparing citations go faster. My business partners and I started the company when we were still in high school in 2001. In summary, our service allowed users to submit all of the bibliographic information for a paper, such as a research paper, and it would automatically generate the citation.

“Why not also design a service that formats a resume when biographical material is entered?” we wondered six years later, after generating our own resumes in college. Besides, we could then create a talent database that employers could search. In addition, we decided to go for it with a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank from EasyBib.

We chose to outsource the development for this second project because EasyBib was our top priority, and we found a student developer at NYU to help us. We discovered the code was inadequate many months later, and the result was still nowhere near where we needed it.

Continue with efforts

We believed that with the proper supervision, this could be remedied. We opted to end our connection and discard what we had produced after missing deadlines, witnessing components of a product that did not match our vision, and, most importantly, losing 10 months of time and $25,000 in the process.

Six months later, the notion was still there. We were certain that if done correctly, companies would be able to pinpoint the ideal employee, and we would be compensated well for our efforts. We’d started working with an Argentine development team to improve EasyBib, and we figured they could help us construct our resume product as well.

It was déjà vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra. Our product development was painfully slow, and the final product did not meet our expectations. Our lead developer shortly announced his departure from the contracting firm. It hit me like a tonne of bricks.

Moreover..

It had been over two years since we had invested in EasyResu.me. We still had that childlike wonder about what it could be. On the other hand, we had spent over $80,000, which seemed like a lot of money to us (we only made half a million in revenue). We were once again faced with the decision of whether to ride out the storm or cut our losses.

In the meantime, EasyBib grew in size, as did the amount of time it took to keep it moving in the correct direction. Because there was a clear path to revenue, we had to decide whether it was better to maintain investing in a new product or utilise that money to help our existing business develop faster.

The answer was clear: EasyResu.me would not exist.

Why is it so important to concentrate?

In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that we wanted to launch a completely unrelated product so early in our business. We took away two important lessons from the event.

For starters, pick your battles intelligently. Entrepreneurs must put together a brilliant team, create and manage a fantastic product, and figure out how to market it. It’s a difficult task. It takes a long time. It costs money to do so. We were already working nonstop to sell and produce a fantastic product with EasyBib, so I’m not sure how we believed we could do it again for a second product.

Second, you must first validate your concept. Our method was flawed. We outsourced development and did not conduct due diligence to see whether people or employers would be interested in our product. We should have validated the possibility by constructing a small version of EasyResu.me first, even though we already knew we needed the product.

Moreover…

We’ve focused our efforts since abandoning EasyResu.me on growing EasyBib to 40 million student users, over 1,500 institutional customers, and a team of 37 workers. And now we’re working on a new product that will allow anyone to develop online courses for training and marketing purposes.

This time, we’re taking a different approach. To gauge interest in the project, we first focused on creating a clean front-end user experience. Then, on the business and engineering sides, we gathered dedicated teams to focus on producing and selling this new product, GetCourse, and on the sales, marketing, and product sides of EasyBib, we recruited excellent leaders to maintain that product’s growth.

Source: online business , online business ideas

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