The end of the beginning

I have officially reached the end of the beginning

By the ‘end of the begining’,  I am referring to the early stages of starting a business. I have completed the ‘planning’ and ‘research’ , I’ve settled on a design for the site, and now I am preparing myself mentally for the hard slog that is, running a business. The blinkers are on. I’ve completed all the nitty-gritty things which need to be done before you can label your thoughts an idea, or even begin thinking you have the makings of a business. A majority of these things have little bearing on whether or not the idea will be successful, however on looking back they have taken a disproportionate amount of time, so I am glad they’re out of the way. For example, due to the incompetence of a high street bank which shall remain nameless, it took three weeks, four meetings, two replacement cheque books and an unhealthy amount of time on hold, before I finally managed to open a business account. These things always seem to take up the most time and energy, and when you are trying to startup, time and energy are in short supply.

I am unaware of a checklist, or specific set of requirements, which need to be completed before one can safely say they have reached this point, I am assuming every situation is different, and each individuals circumstances unique. However I know that I have reached this stage, as my candle now only burns from one end.

In a previous post I wrote about the difficulties of working a day job and trying to build a website. It was more a complaint than an observation, and I likened it to burning a candle at both ends. From today onwards, or to be precise from yesterday, I can no longer make that complaint as I am officially unemployed. I always knew that I was going to leave my job, that was a certainty, the only thing I was unsure of was when. I was eager to seek advice on the topic of quitting your job, I even planned to write a post on it, however It seems the gods have no time for indecision because I was pushed before I could jump. I always assumed I would leave on my terms, or at least try and  elongate my stay if I felt I was being forced out, but during the meeting I didn’t put up a fight. Deep down I knew that the time had come,  and ‘reflecting’ on it, I am glad its over and done with. I don’t have any regrets about working, nor do I harbour any animosity towards the CEO, in fact I think I respect him even more for getting the deed done. While working there, I learnt a considerable amount about business and more importantly myself, and at times, I actually enjoyed going into work. One of the unofficial strap lines of the company was Work hard, Play hard, and I hope it’s something I’ll be able to replicate in my company when I get the chance to.

Now that I am no longer working my only focus from this point forward is the website, I no longer have any of the safety nets I have grown so dependent on over the last few years. I’ve graduated from University, I no longer have a 9 to 5, and I am too old to play professional football. As a result this has to be a success, I literally don’t have a choice. In the early 1500’s an explorer from Cuba, called Hernan Cortez, set sail for Mexico with 600 men. On their arrival he ordered them to burn their boats. His reasoning was that with no means of going back, they were forced to go forward.

I think I just burnt my boat.


Re-inventing the wheel

I’m working nights again as usual, but tonight’s sessions has been somewhat relaxed. I’ve spent most of the evening reading blogs and catching up on the day’s news, and in-between that,  flicking over to the football. Earlier on today, I noticed something interesting in the new updates that were made to the site. While going through the changes, I realised that the site was functioning well, however aesthetically its suffering. I think subconsciously, I have been trading design against functionality. Thinking about it now this is not unusual.  For any startup that’s being bootstrapped, I’m assuming  the focus is generally on producing a working prototype or beta version, and then building on that. However I am wondering whether startups are missing a trick by neglecting the design of the site, and whether having a unique design and look is enough to attract users to a new a website.

As a startup entering a growing, but a relatively mature market, is it enough to just having a working prototype? I understand the need for it to have a unique value proposition, as well as an exceptionally good marketing plan, but what I would like to know is, how important is the design of the site during these early stages? Am I being naive by paying more attention to the functionality of the site, over its design or is this standard protocol among all bootstrapped startups? I have always been of the opinion that look and design of a site can be overhauled if needed, and it would be best to focus on how it will actually work and attract users. Over the years I have seen several ‘startups’ undergo a makeover of sorts, but as I am not re-inventing the wheel, and I do not have huge amounts of capital behind, would it be wiser to focus on its design as a method of attracting users, instead of simply focusing on its USPs. I would be very interested in finding out peoples thoughts on the topic, and I think it is definitely something that needs a lot more thought. If I could, I would definitely pay an agency to re-design the front end of the website, but at this moment in time, I don’t think it’s feasible.

The developer building the site is very good, however front end design isn’t his speciality. Combine this with the fact, that there isn’t much money, I think I have no choice but to continue sacrificing design for functionality, at least for the time being.