Over the years of building software, I’ve acquired a handful of personal sayings that I can’t help but blurt out at relevant moments. One such saying is: “If you’re doing something completely different from everyone else, you’re either solving a completely new problem, or doing something completely wrong.” I’m not sure exactly when I started saying this, but suspect it came after watching one too many engineers deliver a new and overly complex solution to a well understand problem.
This week I found myself remembering my own saying as I was questioning a tenet of my company’s business model. The questioning was the result of a long standing observation that we simply do something different from every other company like us - including very successful public companies (the specific something is not so relevant for the purposes of this post). This tenet is also what has made us different over the last year, and has proven to be critical to our success and growth.
This tenet did not come about by accident of course. I believed in it so much that it was part of the founding vision when the company was just me and an idea. But as I stepped back from the day to day grind of building a business and and looked forward, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would this tenet remain an asset or become a liability? Was this part of our business model completely new? Or should we fall in line with the rest of companies like us?
If entrepreneurship is an exercise in emotional fortitude, I have a knack for constant and sometimes unnecessary introspection into almost every aspect of my business. But at the end of my soul searching, I realized this was a test of my own personal conviction in an idea I had committed to more out of intuition than intellect. In the end, my moment of personal doubt reaffirmed my conviction.
Sometimes building a business requires following your convictions, even when everyone else is doing something different. It's easy to follow the crowd. But sometimes its simply right to be different.
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