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  • Anand Rao

Attention Business Leader: Your New Product Might Fail


As the visionary, your idea for a product or experience is drastically better and different than what exists currently. So valuable to your customer that it will generate profitable business. You have done the grunt work of pitching it to company executives or outside investors - you did a masterful job by enumerating its feasibility and providing examples of how it solves customer needs. Above all you are seen as having the fortitude to get it done.


But are you confident that you can execute?


Most products today are complex, and usually are more or less an improvement over existing experiences or competitors’ products. Despite that, as we know, over 90% of ideas fail to live up to the original vision and most downright fail. When that happens to your amazing idea, dear visionary, only you are to blame for not immersing yourself. You want to be a good leader and delegate. But really what you should have is control over the core aspects of the product.


Rather than regurgitate previous writings on vision to victory or strategy to execution, this is a wake-up call about the next step – making your vision come to life and really come alive. A few areas of focus will ensure success and avoid the primary pitfall – visionary leaders not being hands on.


There are five key areas that typically contribute to failure and depending on the nature of the product, some or all areas may apply. I will elaborate in the future on how a lack of input from a visionary in each of these areas can contribute to that shortcoming.


Product and experience design — starting with customer insights, creating an end-state user experience, UI design, selection of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Back-end process — identifying and driving out manual steps and paper, pushing the envelope while retaining legal protections and information privacy

Marketing — driving traffic through paid and organic digital channels, creating partnerships and referral channels, defining the role of TV advertising

Production and adoption — getting the initial product out, producing the product at scale, planning for sales staff adoption

Data-based decision making — defining the outcomes to measure along with frequency, starting & ending points, and analytics connecting behaviors and actions to sales


Think about the impact that founders of household name companies have had on their products through their personal involvement in making their vision come alive. The founders of companies like Facebook and Tesla were immersed in every aspect of their offering in the start-up phase.


Mark Zuckerberg has been involved in many Newsfeed algorithm changes by testing the product himself and finding areas for improvement.


Obviously, success and growth have led to a need for these founders to prioritize their time on the most important aspect of their business, or the largest problem. And yet here again, they are deeply involved.


Elon Musk took over Model 3 production design, ensuring the team hit a production speed of 2,000 vehicles per week in record time. It took over five years to reach that rate with the Model S and Model X. Under Musk’s direct supervision, it only took nine months. He is still so involved that he often sleeps at the Tesla office and works long days with his teams.


A visionary leader who experiences success has an iron grip over at least one important aspect of the product and fingerprints on all other aspects.


Yes, you’re busy – you most likely have 50 or more people on your extended team who need attention, peers and bosses to keep informed, prep needed for the upcoming board meeting, a presentation in the company all-hands meeting and vendors to keep close.


But you cannot ignore your baby you are trying to birth. Drop a few things that can wait and make at least 30% of your time available for ensuring the success of your product.


Here is a list of actionable things you can start doing that will make a big difference in the success of your product development and launch

  • Review designs with your experience design lead and make decisions on MVP

  • Understand technology constraints with your technical team and innovate around them

  • Visit stores and operation centers to understand and eliminate bottlenecks

  • Decide on inventory and price with your merchandizing and pricing teams

  • Agonize with your production managers on initial volume and scale

  • Review marketing campaign budgets, timing and design with channel leads

  • Work with your analytics lead on what to measure and how

  • Review training and rollout plans with you change manager


Most importantly, understand that individuals on your teams will make it happen. But they need to see your enthusiastic involvement. So spend time getting to know them and have some fun with them.


There are lots of reasons why products don’t succeed. Don’t let it be something that you can control. Be hands on!