14 Lessons Learned from 2005

In Your Best Year Yet, Bob Walsh made a few suggestions for taking stock and trying to start the New Year in a stronger position. One of the ideas involved listing lessons learned in the year, and this is the list I came up with when I decided to give it a try.

  1. If you’re going to build a product, you’d better make sure you know how to sell it before you start. It’s all very well knowing you have a great product, but if you don’t know how to get it in front of the people who need/want it, it will always be a tough sell.
  2. It doesn’t matter so much if someone beats you to it, or if someone copies you. It’s more important that the right people know about your product, and that you know how to sell it.
  3. For a Micro ISV, it’s always best to choose a small problem, or a niche market. It’s easier to develop a highly focused solution, and it’s easier to get it to your market, don’t be tempted to keep widening the scope of the project.
  4. Almost everything I thought I knew when I started my business was wrong.
  5. Almost all the tools and services you need to start and run a web based business are available for free (or nearly free) online.
  6. When you choose your product, do some research on the international relevance of the keywords and product name, and don’t let your ego interfere. If you’ve chosen a bad name, or half of the world doesn’t know what you’re talking about, try to fix it.
  7. What you see online isn’t always representative of the real world. It’s important to talk to real people whenever you get the chance. As an example, I met an IT manager a couple of months ago who was struggling to justify the expense of MS Office licences on several dozen barely used PCs; he had never heard of Open Office.
  8. When I worked full time, I thought it would be great to choose my own hours and work whenever I wanted. It turns out that I like (and probably need) structured working hours.
  9. I don’t work too well when I have a big personal distraction looming.
  10. I like blogging, but I don’t always have a lot to say.
  11. Blog traffic is much harder to get than to lose. I think you have to figure out what and when you’re going to blog, then try not to mess with the formula too often.
  12. Try not to seem too desperate.
  13. It’s hard to tell when you’re getting burned out.
  14. Don’t keep all your shoes in the same place.

I realise it’s a bit of a mixed bag; I’m sure there are lessons here that I haven’t truly learned yet, and there are some that I have no advice to go with. Despite this, I found the process of sitting with a piece of paper and writing them down helpful, thanks Bob.

What lessons did you learn in 2005?

Good points

I wholeheartedly agree with #13. I think that's one of my biggest problems both for myself and for my team since I serve as the Point of Contact for almost all our projects.

I've found that having a dedicated day off (Sundays) helps keep me sane... I do things like not check email, play video games, take road trips (like yesterday), and generally just relax.

Good idea

A complete day off can definitely help, it's rare that I do anything work related on Saturdays, although I usually end up at least skimming through my emails...