For the last few years I've worked in high-stress startup technology environments. Two issues that really grind on a startup are the lack of realistic expectations in the marketing and sales process as well as the drive for new features needed for prospects. The combination of these two hazards can cripple your company if you don't balance them against making progress with the clients who have already put their trust in you.
Pushing feature after feature to chase the next prospect while expectations are missed on your current client base is a dangerous game. I've observed it in several companies and have never seen it actually work to take a startup to the next level.
It's a combination of satisfaction and progressive feature releases that will build your business wisely. You must move the bar in both directions to succeed.
Here are some additional thoughts:
- If you are understaffed and growing quickly, wasting hours and hours to placate upset customers where expectations weren't set accurately will slow you down, if not stop you.
- If your features are lacking, sell the honesty, vision, leadership and personnel in your company. Great people can make anything happen.
- Don't promise features before you have them. It's okay to speak to your backlog, but providing solid dates of delivery in the sales process are promises that you'll be held to.
- If there are client dependencies, communicate them effectively and ensure your clients understand the repercussions of not meeting their responsibilities in the sales and implementation process.
- Leave room for error. Delays will happen, mistakes will happen, bugs will raise their ugly head. Ensure that your timelines allow for all of the above.
- Don't let your clients define your schedule, else you're taking responsibility when you're late. It's better to get it done and get it done right than to get it done right late or wrong early.
- Discipline your sales staff and have them take responsibility for false expectations set. Don't hand the problem down the production line. It's not fair for someone else to fulfill a flawed promise.
- Tame your marketing material. It's great to expand your marketing vocabulary, but don't promise products, features, releases, timelines, or service that you are not able to realistically fulfill.
- Notify the client immediately when the project is off plan. It's essential that a client know the reality of what's happening. Many times, clients find out at the deadline that they aren't going to make it. Like a trail of dominoes, this can destroy several plans downstream that your company isn't aware of.