What should I focus on for my startup?

I've worked on several businesses now, B2B, B2B2C, B2C, C2C, R2D2 etc

Most frequent question I ask myself, and hear others ask is: "uh what should we focus on next? Should we fix bugs, drop costs, acquire more users/etc?"

These are my techniques on how I answer this question from various angles.

Ask yourself: what feels the most important? (< 1 minute)

  • Don't worry about being logical, what do you feel intuitively is the best direction to take the company?

Ask yourself: What are you most excited to work on right now? (<1 minute)

  • Often there's little point in deciding what the top priority is if you and your team aren't excited about it. I've found it's better to do be excited about something than to be logically convinced it is the most important. If you are excited about what you're doing, you'll do it faster, better quality, and thus create more value with it than if you try to force your team to do something no one wants to do.

Prioritizing a bunch of tasks

assume: Your goal is to maximize the longterm value you provide your customers.

Then you should focus on whatever creates the most value with minimal cost.

Imagine you're running a typical SaaS startup with 10,000 monthly active users.

Below I've outlined a task board I'd typically have.

For each task I have 3 tags:

Importance: If you asked the customer how important this is to them, what would they say? Is it "nice to have", "important to them" or clearly "necessary"?

How many customers are impacted? (1, 10, 100, 1000, etc)

How long do you guess it'll take to do? (minutes, hours, days, weeks, months)

I sort tasks by importance —> users impacted —> cost

Now its easy at first glance to see how important a task is relative to another task. Strictly prioritize "necessary" tasks before others. Within a given category you also want to prioritize whatever tasks helps the most users with least cost on your end.

Here is an example board: Open any tasks for an explanation of why it is categorized how it is

tasks

Nameimportanceusers affectedcostdone?
Send T83b form to ensure we are legally compliant
necessary
10000
hours
fix bug preventing IOS users from logging in
necessary
100
hours
Scale users servers 3x as requested
necessary
1
minutes
run marketing campaign to bring in target of 1k new power users
necessary
1000
days
Send payment update email confirming after user signs up for subscription
important
100
hours
Interview potential sales hire
nice to have
10000
days
study: how does package importing work in GOlang?
nice to have
10000
hours
how pointers and pass by reference/value works in golang
nice to have
10000
minutes

note: The Cost Trap: confusing "reducing costs" with "creating value"

No matter what your business is customers always want you to make it cheaper.

Focusing on dropping costs isn't creating value for customers though.

Dropping costs makes your tool more accessible to people who otherwise wouldn't pay

risk: If you have built something that isn't valuable in the first place you may keep telling yourself: "Oh this is a good product it just needs to be cheaper". If something was free almost anyone would use it. You could end up spending a LOT of time focusing on cost reduction when in reality you should focus on finding what people value, giving them that, and then they will pay for it.