When I started with Native a big part of it was about building a talented team around me so that I could build products.
I’d hacked a few things together myself over the years but I knew that I needed a team of ‘A’ players to build something truly great.
While I really enjoy digital strategy and building products for other companies I am truly passionate about building products for myself. In many ways I think that’s the true test of my talents – if I’m such a good strategist/product manager what can I do when left to my own devices?
Nine times out of ten when I announced this to other agency heads I heard back “me too!”. This was incredibly motivating. It made me think I wasn’t alone but also that I had better step up my game if I was going to compete with these more experienced and better resourced agencies.
Having built a few products ourselves in the past and focusing on a new one as we speak this is what we adhere to in order to build products as an agency.
Make product time
And stick to it. We allocate specific times and days to working on products. During that time we don’t do client work. We focus all of our efforts on the product, just as we would if we were working on a client project.
Recruit product-focused people
Find like-minded people who also want to build products. Most of the work we do is awesome but sometimes we have boring work at Native. Everyone is happy to work on less-than-glamorous projects so long as they know that the bigger goal is the product work and the learning and growth that comes from that.
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When it comes to working on the product side of the business they’ll be able to contribute more and are often more willing to pull out the cunning stunts needed to bring a product to life.
Make progress every week
If you’re not working on your project every week it’s going to die. You need momentum.
Every little bit of progress adds further fuel to the fire and it shows to you, your team and your clients that you actually believe in the project.
Leverage your client base
A big advantage to being an agency over a regular start-up is your ready access to a base of people who know and trust you – and are already comfortable paying you money. If your product addresses their need then they may be your best guinea pigs – and hopefully your first sales. They are your validation.
There is a lot of potential in the concept of brand-funded start-ups. The brands help to fund the start-ups early stage development in exchange for early access to the innovation being developed. It can be a win win.
Here is my list of Australian agencies and studios who build web products. Who am I missing?