Have big dreams? Focus on small iterations

Every couple of days I answer a call on Clarity—a service entrepreneurs use to ask others for advice. About a year ago a gentleman called to ask about a membership site he was building. Three days later, he called back.

He had grand plans

He was running a subscription service that was anchored with PDF files being mailed out monthly. It was the newest rendition of a 19-year old company that had been old school at one point—mailing physical newsletters filled with critical information.

Now he wanted to build the entire solution online.

And more than that, he wanted to launch tons of online tools to slice and dice all the different data he'd been collecting for years. He had tons of staff collecting and processing the data on a daily basis and he was getting ready to launch online visualization solutions like no one had ever seen.

Thousands of customers yearned monthly for his information. They opened his emails. They waited desperately for his text alerts.

Yesterday the new site launched

After a year of working with my friend, his updated site and membership solution launched.

We started our skype call at 10 pm, like we normally do, and began the process of pointing the domain name from his old site to his new one on WP Engine.

In less than an hour, our tests were done, our work was done, and his site was live!

But you know what wasn't on the site? None of the extra tools. Oh sure, several are almost ready. Several are pretty darn amazing.

But my friend has heard me say one thing over and over for a year: it's fine to have grand dreams and huge plans. But we work in small iterations.

Four reasons why iterations work

You mitigate risks.

There will always be risk when it comes to a web application. You can't build an online business without risks. But not all risks are equal. Iterations let you focus on the next most important one. And since that's the core of that iteration, your focus is clear. Once that risk is mitigated, you can work on the next.

You keep people coming back for more.

One of the nice things about all the work my friend has done on those tools is that he's prepped several new items that he'll be able to release over time on his new site. That's a reason for people to come back. Or for new people to hear about the site. He's using a launch-based approach to bring attention to the site by delaying features for upcoming “launches”.

You keep your scope tight.

His team isn't small. From copywriters to designers to developers—there are a lot of people that have been engaged on the site. It's easy to have everyone working at cross purposes if you don't keep your scope tight. But iterations help with that. Everyone ends up rowing together, which is crucial.

Changing directions isn't as costly.

At one point, in a late-night conversation, we discussed a particular technology we were looking at for the membership component of the site. My test of the technology was a pretty short iteration but it proved it wouldn't work for what we wanted. And the result of that short iteration was that neither of us was invested in the solution. So changing it was a lot easier than if either of us was emotionally attached, which happens.

The site is great!

I can't tell you how happy I am that this project has launched. Next week will mark a full year that we've been working on it. It's a perfect combination of WordPress (with Beaver Builder) on WP Engine, and Recurly.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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