The first customer of anything that you build that you are eventually planning on selling is you. If this sounds kind of obvious that’s because… well… it is.
But the longer I’ve been building stuff and the longer I’ve been around the more I realize that most people don’t do this well (or at all). Most people start with a hypothesis about other people and then work backwards from there.
And, when the work backwards, they include themselves in the much larger category of “customer” but they forgo that for the sake of a larger “TAM” (Total Addressable Market), which is startup-speak for dollar-dollar bills ya’ll.
Sadly, this doesn’t always work out very well because the creators, the builders quickly distance themselves from the very thing that may have inspired them to begin in the first place.
And that distance magnifies itself quickly overtime when they suddenly wake up and realize that they don’t even use the very thing that they are building.
They believed that they would “dogfood” it but they don’t. They believed that they were “scratching their own itch” but they haven’t had that itch in a long, long time.
Or, perhaps, they’ve just forgotten about it or maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t a real itch to begin with. Maybe it was just a self-deception, a ruse, that was justification for building something, anything.
I think of these things often because I never want to be that builder, that creator, that doesn’t actually use what they build. It’s a matter of integrity and it means more than profit, at least for me.
This applies to small, indie projects and also applies to the much larger businesses that I’ve been able to build and put together. I think of this dynamic daily and it’s a gut-check that provides clarity of thought, mission, and utility.
It also helps me understand if I’m really spending the time that I have, my most valuable and limited resource, on the things that matter the most. And it helps me start to remove the things in my life and the projects that I’m a part of where I am no longer an actual customer.
I have a few of those and I mentally removed them from the stable of “active” projects a week or so ago (with the help of a friend). And the mental space that I now have is enormous – I’m not even sure what to do with myself… except to dedicate myself to the very few things where I am a verifiable customer.
I am my first and very best customer, as it should and always be.