Companies go through various growth stages, and it is extremely important that a company’s leadership knows where in the life cycle their business is, and what they need to do to maintain the growth needed to succeed.
With that in mind, one of the challenges that we’ve faced here at BiggerPockets has been our desire to serve our users across the board — to create a true one stop shop for everything to do with real estate investing. While this goal is an admirable one, it is a truly grand task that requires vast resources.
This vision has driven the direction of BiggerPockets for many years, but I believe that it has also served to distract us from focusing on one extremely important thing — What are we best at doing?
When you think about the great brands out there, it is immediate that you think of their core competencies. I believe that for a while there, we lost our way and our focus, and as a result, we stopped focusing on our core competencies and strengths.
Houston . . . we have a problem!
For the past several months, I’ve been interviewing consultants to find the best one to come in and help me to chart the future direction of BiggerPockets as a company. I could have done it on my own, but wanted a fresh pair of eyes involved. This was not an easy task, and I must say that I’m amazed at the balls that some of these folks have. I’ve had some truly outrageous proposals thrown my way, and what troubles me is that I’m certain that other entrepreneurs would give in to the pressure of their need for help and agree to the terms proposed. I actually had one person who wanted me to agree to agree up front to terms that I wouldn’t see until some future date, if we were going to work together.
Sounds confusing, right?
Please don’t ever fall for something like that! There are many people looking to take advantage of you and your business. Take your time and be careful in evaluating your options, as there are sharks in the water looking for the slightest drop of blood to pounce upon.
The good thing is that I finally found a consultant that I trusted enough to move forward with, and we’ve begun to work together. In fact, last week we spent several days in Houston digging into what BiggerPockets is, what our strengths are, and how best to move forward with the business (NOTE: the pic above is of an awesome sculpture that will greet you as you at George Bush Airport).
The Battle to Step Outside Your Business and Look In With Fresh Eyes
Houston was hugely important to me, and was also extremely challenging as well. Keep in mind that after eight years running a company (BiggerPockets turns 8 this coming Monday, October 22, 2012), it gets tough to look at it with perspective unless you force yourself to do so.
We looked at every component of the business and weighed its value. We examined the behavior of our users on the site, where they were spending their time, and what they wanted out of us, and started to notice a few things. Along with feedback from past surveys, emails, and the ongoing demands of the members of our site, we began to put together a vision of what the site looks like today and what it needs to look like going forward. We also looked at what we were spending our time and energy on as employees of the company and realized that we may not have been putting that time to best use.
Ultimately, after tens of hours of some very focused evaluation and discussion, we came up with a path for the future.
Simplify Your Business to Its Core
What we discovered was that what we were truly best at was in delivering the best community platform online for the real estate investing industry. Our ability to bring people together and help them network and learn is unmatched. Our ability to create a network where active investors are doing real deals with one another, is extraordinary. And our ability to bring together some of the smartest individuals in the industry to help educate our new and experienced users is simply unmatched.
At its core, these are the things that BiggerPockets does well, and these are the things that we are going to continue to focus on going forward. The bottom line is that our community and media operations are second to none in the space, but there’s ALWAYS room for improvement, and we’ve got a plan to do that now.
Ultimately, we’ve been trying to do too much, and in doing so, our site has become somewhat cluttered and difficult to navigate. Our lack of focus is represented in the mass of options that our users face, and our confused message has resulted in users who may also be confused in how best to utilize the tools that we’ve created. While I’ve known this in my gut for some time, it took a deep evaluation to recognize it and figure out what to do about it. I believe that we were going the path of Yahoo — a generalist company unfocused on its expertise; while at no point were we truly in as much trouble as they were, we may have found ourselves there in a few years if we didn’t stop and re-evaluate.
While the previous paragraph may be harsh, if you can’t be harsh with your company, you’re not being realistic, and the fact is that we didn’t get to 100,000+ members or build the credibility to establish a vast library of press mentions by running a bad business; we’ve just done an evaluation how we can make it even stronger than it is today.
Going forward, the plan is simple . . .
Over the next weeks, we’re going to be executing “Project Simplify.” This plan will result in the removal in some of the features of BiggerPockets that you may have come to use, but which we feel are a distraction to our core strength, and which we now know take away from our ability to best serve our users as a whole.
We will be changing our navigation, will be consolidating features and forum areas, and will begin to build the BiggerPockets of tomorrow. We will be bringing on new site moderators and will be hiring new employees to help manage our community and media operations (any interest in a job, let me know). We’ll also begin to execute on our strategy for working with partners, and other companies in the industry, which be believe are an important part of the real estate investing eco-system. We can’t realistically change the industry on our own, but by working together with like-minded people and companies, we can create an environment that helps our members thrive.
The changes have already begun to take place . . . we’re excited to move forward and hope you’ll stay with us as we better serve you in the future.
I can’t tell you how important this exercise has been and I STRONGLY recommend all entrepreneurs consider making time to do an in-depth analysis of everything your business does. Not only is it cathartic, but I believe that it will help you to build a company that is far stronger than what you may be running today.
Note: As I mentioned above, BiggerPockets is turning 8 next week. I started a thread about it on the forums and we’ve already had some incredible feedback about what the site has meant to our users. If you haven’t already shared your thoughts, please do.Project Simplify: Outlining the Near-Term Future of BiggerPockets by Joshua Dorkin