In any product development cycle, for both analog and digital products, there are 5 pitfalls you will undoubtedly encounter. To smooth the learning curve, I paired each problem with a song that best expresses how you’ll feel when these problems come your way. Read on to find out which Rock ‘n’ Roll song you should listen to at each stage of your product development.
1. When All Your Efforts Go Wrong…Down in a Hole by Alice in Chains
When we made our first hair tie prototypes, they were shaped like the locating amulet from Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, but they did not lead us to any treasure, or even a mound of dirt. We had waited months for these prototypes to arrive, Shelly and I were exhausted from trying to figure out what took so long and when they arrived, they were wrong. Down in a hole and I don’t know how I can escape.
As painful as it was, this happens to everybody. Take a look at the first Apple computers, or better yet, take a look at Apple’s first logo! The same company that now makes cutting edge product design with solid pieces of aluminum CNC cut by robots, began by making plywood boxes with circuits in a California garage.
How do you fix this prototype failures? You don’t. You dig your way out of that hole and keep going forward, as we did to a successful product launch. You move on and you learn from it. Fall down four times, get up five.
2. When You Just Need Some HELP… Help by The Beatles
At some point in your product development timeline, even for the most stubborn inventor, you’ll need help. Now I find I changed my mind and opened up the door.
Gary Vaynerchuk advocates working on your strengths and finding people to assist you with the other elements of your work. (See Launch Your Story Before Launching Your Product.) When it came to graphics, we were stuck. Although I’ve taken graphic design classes, I just really dislike graphics and branding and cannot stand to do it. Not to mention my taste in graphics is questionable at best. If it were up to me, most of our branding would look like Miami Vice…which is why I did not do our branding. It just made more sense for us to hire a professional. And the result? Great branding, great colors for our logo and something we were very happy about.
Help doesn’t have to be pricey either. Law Schools often have clinics to help out small companies with patents for no cost. Engineers and product designers are often willing to be paid partially or fully in equity in your company (but not all designers and engineers, so be sure to ask upfront). 3D printing is not expensive and many 3D printers will cut you a deal if you ask. Help isn’t just a movie with four British dudes. (Check out Manufacturing 101: How to Get Started for help getting started.)
3. When You Feel Like a Pinhead…Pinhead by The Ramones
The Ramones were brilliant, one of the first punk bands to have two-minute songs. Oftentimes brilliance is mistaken for idiocracy. In your entrepreneurial journey even if you are literally growing money on trees, you will have someone who thinks your idea is dumb. The Ramones certainly did and they wrote a song about how they “don’t wanna be Pinheads no more.” The Ramones had the last laugh, accepting their place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
When Pretty Knotty came out with a better hair tie, not everyone thought our hair ties were better. Many people thought that we were wasting our time. It’s hard to hear that the product that you put your blood, sweat and tears into was a fool’s errand. We have since been vindicated. Customers love our product and several people who considered our ties to be silly in the past ask us for samples whenever they can. When you convert a naysayer into a fan, then you know you have the right product.
- Let It Go…Let her Cry by Hootie and The Blowfish
Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish is Sisyphus, forever playing Let Her Cry on an acoustic guitar to festival crowds. But let us not forget the message of Let Her Cry: sometimes you have to let things go. As any couple knows, it’s hard to admit defeat. For an entrepreneur, defeat is often magnified by the days, weeks, months, or in our case, years we spent on a project that had to be abandoned. For us, three and a half years into our product development, we were stuck.
Our idea was not 100% and we had been spinning our wheels. The final nail in the coffin was an independent critique by a third party advisor. She saw what we had and decimated our project as Genghis Khan decimated Baghdad. She was right. We needed to go in a different direction and that direction brought our products to market, brought customers and a following. I can’t deny it’s tough but I can’t say we would be where we are today without it. As Darius says, “if the sun comes up tomorrow, let her be.”
5. When All You Remember is the Bad…Photograph by Nickelback
Nickelback is often chided for being mainstream, but in this case I have to disagree; who hasn’t looked at their past mistakes and cringed? I actively avoid looking at pictures of myself from ages 12-15, when I served as an accessory to my nose. In the same way, I think back on my assumptions of starting a business and shudder.
When I was in college, I took an entrepreneurial class and I thought I would start a restaurant with my classmates. Mind you, my degree was in product design. The week after we graduated, we pitched our brilliant idea to venture capitalists and had been genuinely surprised that we didn’t leave that meeting with a six-figure check. Reading through our restaurant business plan, it had enough hot air to go on a balloon ride. I can’t say I was much better when I decided to enter the hair tie game.
How do you get over this? Nickelback says it best, “Look at this photograph, every time I do it makes me laugh.” Be willing to laugh at yourself.
This post was written by Guest Contributor Jacob Eberhart
Jacob Eberhart is a Maryland-based Industrial Designer and the Vice-President of Operations for Pretty Knotty LLC, prettyknotty.com a manufacturer of athletic apparel. He is interested in increasing small-scale manufacturing in the US, 3D printing, bio-based plastics and just-in-time manufacturing. Out of the office, Jacob enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, learning DIY projects, and attempting to teach an old dog new tricks.