What I’ve Learned from Building 3 Software Platforms

 
My wife and I were running our previous agency/software company (and working way too much) when we found out we were pregnant. I knew that things had to change and I gave myself the challenge to optimize the business and get to a successful exit.  Truth be told, we needed to work less regardless, but it was nice of our son to help us out with that 😉
The day after finding out we were pregnant, we flew to San Diego for an already-planned office visit. I stayed up all night in the hotel room, planning out what we needed to do to make the business attractive to a potential buyer.
If you can picture me acting like a mad scientist, in a hotel room, with my pregnant wife sleeping a few feet behind me, that’s going to be pretty close to what it was like.  But, I did have a method to my madness…
  • I wrote down every problem we’ve heard from our clients over the years.
  • I also created a list of all the solutions that we could successfully execute in a short period of time.
  • I then started connecting the dots (literally).  I would draw lines between the problems and solutions.
  • Eventually, ideas started forming when I started seeing where a single solution would start to solve multiple related problems.
  • As I found those connective threads, I would continue to optimize the solution to try to make it more compelling and a stronger way to solve the problem.
  • Then, to make sure I could communicate the idea, I started sketching out screenshots of what the solution would look like.
I heard my wife roll over in the morning and was so excited, I word-vomited the plan before she barely had her eyes open.
In my head, the plan was simple (devil’s in the details, of course), but it involved building an all-new software suite with a desktop and mobile version – much more powerful than the existing software we had already built. 
Fortunately, she loved the plan and we went to work creating the development team necessary to build the new software. Exactly one year after our son was born, we got an offer on the business and our exit was in place.  I know, I skipped over a few details along the way, but those 12 months are all stories in themselves.
Fast forward a few years, we started BGBO Co and have now built Arvo, the third software I’ve created. Building software is not easy. It’s stressful and costs way more than you want it to.

These are a few things I’ve learned about building software:

  1. Software is never “done” so there isn’t a day that you get to take a break from building. Sure, there is a time that your core product is done but technology is always changing and updates have to be made. 
  2. There will be bugs. Software will break. You have to have a plan for communicating fixes to your customers and have a plan for how your development team handles them quickly.
  3. You will have ideas for features that you think are going to sell your software like hotcakes (even if you don’t love those features and even if they really aren’t that useful).
  4. Just because you build an amazing software that solves problems for customers, it doesn’t mean customers will find you. Marketing and sales need to start before your software is done.
  5. Software always takes longer to be built than what was estimated. It isn’t because developers are terrible at estimating, it is because there are so many unknowns to building software. As my co-founder would say, take the timeline a developer tells you and multiply it by 3. It will allow for more realistic expectations and if the developers are ahead of schedule, then great! There’s no need to put unnecessary stress on you and your team by worrying about deadlines that won’t be met.
  6. And, last but not least, get feedback from the people that are actually using your software.  If it’s possible, use your own software and get feedback from your team.  
To make things simple for ourselves, we set up a bug/feature request form that any user can fill out and provide the information we need to quickly fix a bug or schedule a new feature in the roadmap.
Here is a playbook on how we do it.

Want to build your own playbooks? Get started with Arvo for free!