Great design comes from obsessing over the details

Obsess Over the Details – Entrepreneurial Success Tip #5

Details are often the difference between success and failure. There are a lot of details in life I really don’t care that much about. Just give me the overview. But when it comes to my product, my messaging, my positioning, how we sell and market etc., I obsess over nearly every detail. I love it! I want everything that I have some control over to not just be good. I want it to be GREAT!

I have always been that way. In eighth grade I did a science project that won the top prize in the Illinois State competition. I figured out how to study what amino acids were destroyed when you made oats into Cheerios, rice into Rice Krispies and corn into Corn Flakes. I had my own lab in the basement. I also had chemicals that my

Obsession over details in business

Obsessive in 8th grade

mom feared would blow up the house (some of them could have). I was obsessed with the idea. I got help from experts and I learned everything I could (see #1). When the judges quizzed me there was nothing I could not answer. Maybe this is a quality that just comes naturally to me, but it’s definitely learnable and a quality every entrepreneur needs to develop.

Details make the difference between good and great. ACT! was a great product. Today, 27 years later, it’s still a viable product being sold in the market. The thing that made it great were the details. I recently was asked “what was the essence of ACT!?” I answered, “Anticipation.” ACT! had a way of anticipating exactly what you either wanted to do next or ought to do next. It was uncanny. People still rave to me about how ACT! changed their business lives. It was all because my co-founder, Mike Muhney and I totally obsessed over every single detail. We would argue about little things that probably didn’t really matter, but out of that came a product that created a new category of software. It just worked the way it ought to.

Think about other products that you just go “Ahhh” over. The iPhone. A Tesla. A great piece of clothing. A great movie or piece of music. Something about it simply makes it great. I love to listen to the Beatles music. I am still in awe of how tight they were. Every note, word and harmony just right. It set them apart and no one has ever come close in terms of number one Rock and Roll hits.

There is a term that is popular in the software business today. MVP – Minimally Viable Product. It is important to get something in front of prospects and customers and get feedback early. But what is more important is to ship a “whole” product. MVWP – Minimally Viable Whole Product. It does not mean it has every feature that it will eventually have. Software is never done. But you have one chance to make a great first impression. Your product or service ought to be great in every way you can afford to make it.

I often find myself simply staring at a screen in Ryver and asking myself, “what could be better?” What could we take out to make it simpler? Is everything I can do from here obvious? How can we make something one click instead of two? How can Ryver accurately and automatically fill in a field? What would someone want to do from here?

 Old UI

Old UI

After here? And I have attracted people who work with me who do the same thing. We also have to have people who don’t do this so we can actually get something done! We totally scrapped one version and started over after a year of work. Then we got right to the finish line when someone figured

New UI

New UI

out how to make things about 50% simpler. So we took an extra few weeks to do it right the first time. We have done dozens of hard technical things to make Ryver wicked fast. Speed is a feature. Most web apps are painfully slow. Unacceptable. Details like speed totally matter!

The two screens above are an example of our obsessive focus on details.  We never really liked the way we used up three panels at the top for our menus.  Our dev team kept working on it and finally we hit on a much better, simpler way to do it.  The one on the bottom is not out yet, but is “coming soon.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when enough is enough. Finished is better than perfect, but you should obsess over every detail that you can afford to to make just right. Steve Jobs had it right. “Insanely Great” is the goal.

Pat Sullivan
pat@ryver.com

Was co-creator and CEO of ACT!, The Best Selling Contact Manager. Founder and CEO of SalesLogix The Leading Mid Market CRM Two time winner of Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Co-founder and CEO of Ryver, The Best Team Communications that is FREE.