You have lots of ideas and numerous potential projects that you’d like to initiate that could improve your business and help you to grow. However, like 98% of start-ups and small businesses, financial and human resources are limited so you have to pick and chose where to focus your efforts. Determining what to spend your limited time and cash on is really difficult.

We had a great example of this in our own company last year. ihateironing started off with the majority of orders coming through our website. Everyone was telling us we needed a new app and we really wanted one. Our issue was that we only had one software developer and therefore we had to prioritise either a slick native app for our customers, or to build out our backend logistics and operations dashboards to give us data and insights. The backend logistics and dashboard work would take almost 6 months to complete and the app 3-4 months.

At the time it felt somewhat dispiriting to see competitors emerging with slick mobile apps who at surface level appeared to the outside world to be more professional operations than us. However, we knew the logistics and data would help us to ensure people’s clothes were looked after properly and returned on time and this was what our customers told us they really cared about. Consequently, we made the decision to prioritise the backend software development that nobody would actually ever see, except our team, and delayed the new mobile app for another 6 months.

During that 6 months we grew very quickly and new backend software helped us to ensure that even with the growth, customers got their clothes picked up and returned back on time, beautifully cleaned and crisply pressed. There was an occasional customer request for a new app - but it was always an after note to compliments about how great the service was.

We certainly don’t manage to prioritise our projects correctly every time, but we got it right this time because we really understood what was important to our customers. They were prepared to wait for the app, but they wouldn’t have stayed with us if the cleaning or deliveries weren’t on point.

Having seen competitors come and go it’s amazing how many business don’t really understand what their customers want and value. If you’re not sure what’s really important to your customers, get out of the office and spend time listening to your customers to find out what they really care about.

By Matt Connelly, founder and CEO, ihateironing