Taking a lean approach to building products

Catching up with Taylor Assaly of IronHub

Recently, we had a visit with Taylor Assaly, Founder & CEO of IronHub, and a participant in 321’s very first cohort of Lean Sales. The topic: building great products.

First of all, Taylor, how are things going at IronHub? What has the last year been like?

When I started 321 in March 2017, we were a very early stage company. By the end of Lean Sales, we had signed on 1 client, and had 4 additional companies using parts of the product but not yet fully engaged. A year later, we now have 10 oil and gas companies on board, with approximately 25 companies (including brokers, equipment dealers, resellers and potential buyers) involved in transactions through the IronHub network. Our revenue in the first month of this year is 3x what it was in all of last year, we are adding to the team and on track to drastically overshoot our targets. That’s both exciting and terrifying!

Congrats! Obviously, you’ve made big strides in building your sales capacity, but tell us about your path to building a great product.

Key to our success has been a clear awareness of our value to our customers – and 321 really helped us with that. We have been able to zone in and focus on the most important part of our value – in our customers’ eyes – so we didn’t waste time and resources dealing with issues they didn’t care about. That really helped us to move the needle quickly on our business, by drastically shortening our sales cycle.

Second, was getting clear on how to handle “outlier” opportunities. Early last year, we were still in the market validation phase. Every conversation with prospective customers revealed new ideas and opportunities for IronHub. Getting clear on which of these ideas were distractions vs. which would drive the development of our core business was critical. That helped ensure that I was spending time on advancing the business and allowed me to optimize my time.

You’ve mentioned to us a few times the importance of being “lean” in building your product. Can you expand on that?

Taking a lean approach is critical. And by “lean”, I really mean five things:

First – and as mentioned earlier – start building products with customer value in mind. Really understanding their problem, and the value you bring to them by solving it.

Second, take an iterative approach to getting the product right. Don’t aim for perfection – it’s elusive. It causes you to wait. The resulting delays, or worse, seeing your product stagnate, will kill you. And sometimes getting it right means a pivot – just be sure you’re pivoting on the axes that matter to your customer and that you still end up with a viable business model.

Third, focus on the “whole product”. I see lots of companies focus solely on the tech. But at IronHub, we are both a service company, and a tech company – a hybrid. And that seems to drive the biggest value for our customers.

Fourth, we sell to elephants – some very large companies. So, for us it’s key to be proactive in getting market feedback from multiple elephants, to ensure we don’t get pulled in one direction based on one very loud voice.

Last, keep listening. We’ve recently created a customer advisory board to ensure we keep listening to the market and have that feedback be front and centre for our whole team.

Thanks, Taylor, for your insights – and good luck with IronHub!

This post originally appeared on Alberta Enterprise Corporation’s Start Alberta portal.

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