March 5, 2023

Product vs. Project: The test of Freedom. Part 5

Part 1, 2, 3, 4 

The independence stage – from sales to self-sufficiency

When you get into the product business, you will think that it will be difficult at first, you will have to work really hard, and then it will get easier. This is only half true. It will surely be difficult at first, but it will never get any easier. If it gets easier, this means that the product has stopped developing. 

One more time about ambitious goals and focus

If you do the business, you have an ambitious goal. Sometimes the second ambitious goal breaks in and causes loss of focus. What does it mean? You, as the director, have failed to perform your duties and didn’t tell someone to get lost.

Usually, it happens like this. Someone from the board of directors or a valuable client, or a smart colleague approaches you. They say: "Let's do an awesomely useful thing in the project." No one ever comes up with a stupid thing. If you agree, you will do a very useful thing, will make money, but it will harm the pace of your product.

Why not reject everyone, you might ask? The answer is because one day your product should change. You should understand this not at the time of the change, but at least several months in advance. How to understand what kind of changes this is: a pivot (a key change of the product that will create a new value) or a side quest (a side task that will only distract from the goal)? One of them is crucial for product development, and the other one is harmful. 

If this is the pivot, then the first ambitious goal doesn’t exist anymore. Now you have another ambitious goal. Unfortunately, usually, it’s not like that. Most often, this is what happens: a partner approaches you – an intelligent, competent person. They say: “Time is money; let’s pursue two goals at once, otherwise competitors will overtake us..."

I’ve made this mistake twice, and agreed to work on two goals at once. So I'm writing this to the future myself: “Dear future Alexey! Please don’t ever try to pursue two goals at once!"

In order to pursue two goals at the same time, you will need two teams. Having two teams is not twice, but three times more money needed – and this is just an optimistic estimate. Because you will have to coordinate the teams with each other, and this will cause additional expenses. And yes, at first you’ll slow down. 

If you still decide to pursue two goals at once and everything will go wrong, never say: “I’ve screwed up in business". Instead say: "We have gained valuable experience." Everyone says that.

Projects or product – how to choose

If the phrase "I want to change the world" is not a pathetic slogan, but a particular need for you; if you really have an idea that it would be cool if people start doing something differently (here is how to check it: if you do not have to earn money, will you want to do it anyway?); if for some reason you really want to conquer the world – go to the product business.

If you just want an interesting job; if you want to always have actual tasks, if you want people to look at you as a professional, and to work next to the dudes you find interesting, – go to projects.

You can also do both (like myself), but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, because very few people enjoy a sixteen-hour working day.

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