Treat Your Company Like a Product: The Power of a Well-Designed Organization

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3 min

Written by: Tobias Günther

In my first few years as an entrepreneur, I overlooked something very important.

I did a fine job of designing a great product, but I completely neglected designing the company itself.

(And if I’m totally honest, I have to admit I wasn’t even aware of it!)

This oversight cost me a lot:

  1. It slowed our progress.
  2. It made the company fragile.
  3. And, as an entrepreneur, it put way more pressure on me than necessary.

The Dangers of a Neglected Organization

This mistake is one that I see many startup founders and small business owners make. And I understand why they make it: they started their companies with an idea. They wanted to build something. A wonderful, exciting product.

This is an act of great creativity. And without it — to admit that right away — there would be no company in the first place!

But many founders stay in this phase for too long.

Totally immersed in improving their product. But at the same time neglecting to improve their organization.

I can tell you firsthand how dangerous this can be…

1. An entrepreneur’s true job is to build the company — not the product!

Every experienced entrepreneur can confirm: creating a great company is an incredibly difficult job.

You can’t do this while your head is 90% in your product — or anywhere else.

It’s a full-time endeavor.

And it’s one of the few things you cannot, should not, and possibly don’t even want to delegate.

Building the “house” you and your team come to work in — every day, for many years — is an incredibly rewarding task.

And an entrepreneur’s true job.

2. An underdeveloped organization is fragile and prone to problems.

If an organization hasn’t been developed with care and diligence, you will notice.

There are more conflicts than necessary, more errors than necessary, and work feels much more like a grind than necessary.

3. An organization like this is totally at the mercy of its founder.

If the founder hasn’t done their job of developing the organization — who has?!?

It most likely hasn’t been done at all.

This leaves the company at the mercy of its founder.

If the founder is well and focused, the organization might be well.

But if this were ever to change — e.g. because the founder is on vacation, gets sucked into an unexpected task, or leaves the company — the organization is in trouble.

The Benefits of a Carefully Designed Organization

The opposite of such a fragile and neglected organization is one that has been carefully designed.

Such an organization is able to weather storms.

It improves itself over time.

And it takes pressure off of you, the founder!

With time — if you’ve done your job — you will be able to step back more and more.

The organization runs on its own.

This is a fantastic feeling!

Treat Your Company Like a Product

A very clear and descriptive articulation of this idea comes from Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp: a talk he gave at a conference was titled “Your Company Should be Your Best Product”. What a great way of phrasing this idea!

A couple of things will change once you start looking at your company through this lens:

  • You’ll start to see “bugs” and problems much more quickly.
  • You’ll understand that a company (just like a product) needs constant attention and improvement. It’s never “done”.
  • You’ll become aware that this task needs more of your time.

If you really want to build something great, this time is the best investment you’ll ever make.

Take care,

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