• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Users: The Toughest Boss You’ll Ever Love

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Being your own boss and running your business from home may sound like a dream come true, but in reality founders have some of the toughest bosses around — users. 

By Silvia Curioni (Co-founder & CEO, allthecooks)

Here’s a conversation that happens pretty often in my life:

Other: So you run your business? That is so cool!

Me: Yep, it is pretty cool :)

Other: So are you looking to get an investment?

Me: No, not yet.

Other: Wait! You run it on your own? You have no boss? That must be awesome!

Be your own boss. Set your own hours. Work from anywhere.

This is a dream many of us in the working world share — especially if you have been confined to toeing the company line at a corporation. You could say I’m living it since I’ve been a developer and business-lead (CEO) for a company that my husband and I founded to make great mobile apps. But, no, I am not my own boss. My users are my boss, and my husband and I need to take turns being each other’s boss. This is more difficult than you may imagine. Here’s why.

It’s my users who will tell me, often in the middle of the night, to get up and fix a bug that is preventing them from using a feature they think is simple and want right away. It’s my users who tell me what to do next. This is because at we spend a lot of time in touch with users asking where they want us to take our products next. This can be a tumultuous relationship with its ups and downs. But it’s also my users who congratulate me on a new feature that they love, and this is surely the best kind of reward to keep a product or project running.

Sure, sometimes I can go on a month-long “vacation” to visit my family abroad without asking anyone’s permission. But it is not a real vacation, is it? If my husband and I are not on the front lines of our CRM system and Google Analytics running our business, than nobody else is doing it for us. So there are very few days that we get to truly “unplug.” Our ‘bosses’ are there every day in the back of our minds.

I come from a corporate background. I had a real boss who was also my first and unforgettable mentor. I had real weekends, real vacation, an office and a real salary. Then I decided to leave it all behind a year ago and jump in, head first, with my startup. It was scary and I’m still getting used to my new life.

It takes a lot of discipline to work on your own schedule, especially if you do it at home. Any 15-minute break can turn into a two-hour break once you see dirty dishes and clothes to be put away or a living room to organize.  All of a sudden, I find myself knee-deep in laundry, or consumed in swiffering the floors, and forget about work.

It was only when I realized that my users were my bosses and they were “shouting” at me to get things done, that I started to become more disciplined in my home office.

Whilst doing non-work tasks around the house, I would be thinking of the user who had sent me an email earlier that day saying she couldn’t see her recipe measures correctly in allthecooks, our most popular product.

‘She will fire me and my app if I don’t have it working for her ASAP!’ I’d tell myself.

This past year has been an exciting roller coaster! There are days when you see a bright future for your company and get super excited about the things that are coming for you. Other days seem like a nightmare – nothing works and your goals seem too far away for you to ever reach them.

But I realize it is like this for every founder I know. There are awesome days and really bad ones. The most important thing is to keep going and not to lose focus on your goal. Know that the bad days will pass and a new exciting one is coming your way.

My company is focused on the mobile world right now. And if I can give one tip to other entrepreneurs out there who work in the mobile field it’s this: Listen to your bosses (your users) and focus on quality.

A high-quality app gets good reviews and a better ranking position. It’s that simple. If your app is THAT good, you may even be noticed by the platform editors.

It is gold if you do get the opportunity to have your app featured in any market. Do not waste the opportunity; focus on having a high-quality app, users will notice and stick with your product, instead of the one they previously used everyday.

What helps you stay motivated and focused without the structure of a corporate gig?

 

silvia-headshot1About the guest blogger: As the coder who handled iOS development, as well as CEO and co-founder, Silvia takes great pride that allthecooks currently holds top rank in the Apple App store. Follow her on Twitter @scurioni.

Photo credit: Kumar Appaiah via Flickr