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Do What is Essential, Not What is Complete
On November 1, 2022, I finally started a project that I kept on putting off — building our own software products.
Since 2016, I've had the skills to do this. But two key constraints held me back: time and talent availability. That changed when I started using GitHub Copilot, an AI programming assistant, in 2022. It gave me enough productivity and motivation that I needed to execute on my production requirement for this to work—to ship a new product feature every 2 months.
However, it’s been both a fruitful and unpleasant experience — one of the hardest things I’ve done. As an agency owner first, my primary responsibility is still to clients and employees. With limited time, I’ve had to ruthlessly focus only on the essential, not the complete product vision.
This constraint has been a blessing. Frankly, looking to implement a "360 solution" causes organizations to spread themselves too thin and invest half-heartedly. When you avoid perfection, you easily eliminate non-essential work and make simple, focused decisions. These may seem "incomplete" but it drives clarity and growth.
For example, in Monolith:
My marketing agency does not bother maintaining social media pages. We don’t post much on Instagram or Facebook.
The reason is simple — our customer base does not hang around scrolling through different social media feeds, as they know most content is generic and not useful. So we don’t invest anything in it.
Instead, to acquire the right customers, we do webinars, seminars, trade shows, or direct sales. Social media management may be useful for mass B2C, but not useful for B2B companies like us.
By accepting a wide scope of responsibility, it empowers you to scope down and eliminate non-essential jobs & tasks.
Another example, from Mai:
I killed darlings and features that I really wanted to add, like an AI editor.
I wanted more interactivity and an inline editor with special AI commands. This would have set us back 4 months.
We asked: What does the customer need here? By framing ourselves to their problem, not our solution ideas, we decided to integrate chat instead, which offered feedback instead of direct inline editing.
This allowed us to still solve our customers’ problem to a high degree, while allowing us to ship on time.
Any other cool feature that we had to pause can be a nice feature to add in the future
Such constraints are wonderful for lean organizations looking to create a distinctive, uncopyable strategy versus large companies. The game is not to "follow best practices" but to make tough calls big companies can't.
You must ruthlessly focus on what drives growth, even if it means eliminating features, channels or workflows that seem essential. This will be risky for an executive at a large company who has to check every box, and make sure that every department leader is heard & valued.
But for a nimble startup or small business, eliminating the inessential to focus on the vital few choices that drive results is key. It creates strategic leverage against bloated bureaucracies, and you will out-execute them with your focus.
Constraints force clarity of vision and empower you to turn limitations into advantages. By accepting and embracing constraints, you focus fully on the essential, and not half-heartedly on the complete.
For articles about entrepreneurship, marketing, or product development, follow me at Twitter: https://twitter.com/kennyfrc
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