Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bracelet Dogfooding

Are You Dogfooding?

The Bracelet

Some time ago my daughter came home from her job as a checker at a grocery store, sat down and pulled a wad of money out of her pocket. I asked her where that came from. She said she had been getting a lot of compliments on a leather bracelet she wears and a lot of people wanted to know where to get one.

My daughter talked to the boy who made it for her and told him he should wear one because people would buy them from him. He really liked the idea of selling them since he enjoyed making them, but he didn’t really want to wear them. My daughter and the boy figured out a good price and my daughter told him she would sell them for him.

The next day she wore the bracelet to work and sold 20 of them! She didn’t “sell” any of them, but simply wore it. When people asked her where to buy one, she said she could sell them one.

The Router

A few years ago we were designing a network router for businesses. We had targeted small businesses of between one and fifty employees. The basic assumption was that there would not be anyone knowledgeable about computer networks at these businesses. We made everything except plugging in the cables automatic. We provided a big, colorful diagram showing where to plug in the cables to make that piece simple. We tested it many times in the office to make sure there were no problems.

We were happy with the test results and ready to ship the first order of 10,000 units. As a last minute gesture I said I would take one home and plug it in. It didn’t work. What went wrong? I was up all night trying to figure out why it didn’t work. The next morning I took all of my findings to our key engineer and explained to him that it didn’t work. He looked at me puzzled and said they had tested it and there were no problems, but he would take a look at it.

About an hour later he sheepishly came in my office to tell me what was wrong. They had forgotten to put in a simple command. They never saw the problem in our labs because our network didn’t require this, but most other networks would require it. We fixed the problem and got our 10,000 unit shipment out later that day.

Dogfooding

Are you dogfooding? Whether you are making bracelets or complex routers, you need to use your own products, otherwise known as dogfooding. I originally heard this stated as “eat our own dog food.” Due to the negative nature of this, some now say “drink our own Koolaid” or “drink our own Champaign”. One Microsoft executive calls it “IceCreaming.”

No matter what you want to call it, the benefits of dogfooding are huge. These were just two examples involving a sales and a quality benefit of dogfooding. The benefits scale sales, marketing, engineering, quality assurance, public relations, and more. If you are not dogfooding now, start today!

Dano Ybarra is a leader, global executive, corporate warrior, serial entrepreneur, husband, father, and Internet pioneer. To learn more about Dano please visit www.danoybarra.com or contact him at dano@danoybarra.com. For additional information visit his Beyond.com profile.

Dano Ybarra CMO CEO

Don’t Quit, Change the Rules

My brother and I started a furniture business, Beaverwood Products, when we were young. We custom designed furniture for restaurants and lodges. We were both young and had no experience, just persistence. We had no idea we could actually fail!

Since our furniture style matched the design of waterbed frames of the day we thought we could call on the largest water bed chains in the area. We had our first appointment with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the largest chain in the Northwest. We put on our best suits, gathered our photos and samples, jumped in my brother’s 240Z and headed out.  All in all the CEO liked what we did, but couldn’t justify the financials of buying from a custom shop when he could get similar products, albeit of lower quality, from a mass manufacturer. We could tell he was sincere, or at least convinced us he was, so we said our good-byes and thanked him for his time. As we were leaving, my brother turned to him and said, “Can we show you one more thing?”

Up until then we had focused our conversations on the couches, chairs, and coffee tables. This seemed logical given the nature of the products sold in a waterbed store. The CEO answered “sure.” My brother pulled out the photos of our dining room tables and chairs. We could see the CEO’s face light up. I ran to the car and grabbed our miniature version of the table set that was a perfect size for children. SOLD!

We just landed our first waterbed store chain for a customer — both the regular sized and children sized dinning room tables. Or rather, gaming tables. You see, my brother quickly realized that dining room tables would not be a perfect fit. However, he saw some pool tables in the store and quickly repositioned our dining tables as gaming tables. It worked!

It would have been easy for us to quit, walk away knowing we put our best foot forward and justifying why this would not be a good direction for our business. However, by taking a closer look at the situation, realizing that competing for the commodity products business was not a winning approach, my brother changed the rules. He found a product category that was not commodity — gaming products. He then changed the rules and found (or created) a pain point — the CEO had no quality gaming tables in his store. He then positioned one of our products to relieve the pain point.

To this day I can’t imagine how we fit so much furniture in the 240Z, but then we were in our early 20′s and didn’t know you couldn’t do these sorts of things. When faced with a clear mismatch of your solution with the customer problem, don’t quit. Step back, find a pain point, change the rules, and close the business.

Dano Ybarra is a leader, global executive, corporate warrior, serial entrepreneur, husband, father, and Internet pioneer. To learn more about Dano please visit www.danoybarra.com or contact him at dano@danoybarra.com. For additional information visit his Beyond.com profile.