Walking the Tightrope

February 7, 2007

What is our core competency at FreshBooks? Walking the Tightrope.

Walking the tightrope is a term I use around here more and more… What does walking the tightrope mean if you are a web application developer? It means finding a balance between what people need and what you *can* put in your application.

Believe me, we’ve dreamed of a million things to add to FreshBooks, but that does not mean we should add them all. If fact, the whole point is we should NOT add most of the things we come up with. We should only add what people need…or what most of the people need. The guys at 37Signals call this the 80/20 rule. I like that. If 80% of people need something you dream up, chances are it should be added. What else should you add? Things that *pain* people…if you have a nice tight feedback loop, and you stay close to your customers, it won’t be long before you know very clearly what pains people.

Increasingly I talk with people outside our company who say, “What if you added this? What if it worked this way? I bet people would like this feature?”

The thing I like most about these questions these days is the way I get to answer: “Well…we have over 2.5 years of customer feedback, I’ve read every one, and no one has mentioned that so while I can see it might be *nice to have*, people just don’t seem to need it”. If I give it a moments thought I can come up with a very logical reason as to why no one has asked for it: It’s out of context of the relationship/the workflow/people’s expectations, and every time that happens, I get more insight into what we’re doing here that I can use to help better walk the tightrope carrying forward. It’s a virtuous circle.

about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.