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Work On Your Business Not Your Website

Starting a business today often involves starting a website along the way.  We live in an online world, a website is a natural part of any business solution.  Too often however business owners, especially entrepreneurs, start out building a business and end up building a website instead.  In some cases that may be appropriate, but in most cases, backed by failure rates among startups, its the wrong use of time and resources.  Entrepreneurs can avoid derailing a business by avoiding the website trap.
Derailed locomotive.
A business, usually defined by a business plan, is typically a solution to a market problem offered to clients for a price.  The client perceives the business wholly as the solution it provides.  In the case of a coffee shop, its the atmosphere, coffee quality, and the convenience of location.  Think of any business, the word website rarely comes up first.

A website, in almost every regard should make the business solution more convenient to the client.  From the client view, the website lets a person receive the business solution faster and more conveniently.  In the case of the coffee shop, a website provides hours, a location, a menu and announces upcoming events.  Any website without the business solution it presents is by definition useless.

Making the website instead of the business a goal will invariably lead to failure.  Its like having a giant billboard steering cars to an empty lot, or worse one with rocks and nails in it.  Its tempting to build an amazing website, to spend thousands on design, to get that perfect template, to fret for hours over the logo.  These things make entrepreneurs feel accomplished because they're relatively easy.  They also drain resources, time, and energy, also known as runway.  Spending a few weeks of a 6 month business plan runway on seemingly critical website tasks significantly diminishes the runway for actual business work, like sales and marketing.

As a business owner the immediate goal should be to get to sales and marketing as quickly as possible.  That means building a website that does just enough to support the business and the solution.  Using the coffee shop example, the solution is selling good coffee to people in the area.  A site that provides directions, a menu, and an events list will help drive people to the shop much more effectively than an expensive logo, elaborate template, or special Google Font.  More importantly, treating the website as only part of the solution, instead of the solution, frees the coffee shop owner to spend more energy on newsletters, booking events, and improving the quality of the coffee.  All of which will have a significantly bigger impact on sales than anything the website template could do. Putting a website in its place has significant spillover effects on the rest of the business.

Deciding how much energy to put into a website is a process of asking a few introspective questions most entrepreneurs develop over time.  Will this website feature make it more convenient for clients to engage with the business solution.  For example, the ability to pay online is usually a yes, while the specific slant of a Google font, probably honestly not at all.  Will this website feature reduce the time, energy, or resources required to solicit the next ten clients?    For example, a newsletter offering business solutions probably will, while a sliding photo gallery with custom fade in effects using expensive stock images, will probably not.  Will a client miss this website feature?  For example, a client will never know how good a logo could have looked, the important thing is they're on the website now.  Asking these three questions whenever developing a website for a business will avoid the pitfall of confusing business goals and website goals.

Focusing on the business not the website will free the entrepreneur to undertake sales and marketing tasks sooner.  Having a lighter website will also give the business more flexibility as changes cost less over time. At this moment the website becomes an asset, not a burden to be carried on top of the business.  To continue the earlier scenario, a coffee shop that is booking events, showing up in local maps, and selling good coffee will always beat one thats busy choosing logo and template colors.  Skip the busy website work and get to building the business as quickly as possible.

These insights have been made possible by working with pragmatic, passionate, and talented individuals who use the AwareLabs website platform.  At AwareLabs we love empowering entrepreneurs to pursue business goals, not just websites.

Written By: Paul Kenjora

Paul Kenjora is the Product Manager and founder at AwareLabs, a company that provides the next generation website builder for small businesses. He has 10+ years product development experience, has launched sites netting millions of visits a day, and has consulted for fortune 500 companies.