Seven Takeaways from Silicon Valley

What do you think of when you think of Silicon Valley? (Yes, it is a marvelous satirical comedy on HBO, but besides that.) Here a few words that may come to mind: technology, innovation, entrepreneurship … billionaires.

Bring it all together, and maybe you associate the companies of Silicon Valley with a cutting-edge culture that breeds success. So what are the tenets that make all their technological advances (and wealth) possible? Here are seven Silicon Valley imperatives that we think could work anywhere … and at pretty much any business:

  1. Make innovation the goal at your company. Obviously, you want to encourage everyone to share ideas for helping your company develop better products and services or to operate more efficiently. And naturally, you’ll want to reward them accordingly. But there’s no need to shoot for the stars by inventing something all new. Instead, go for a “build a better mousetrap” goal. There’s a lot less investment, groundwork and education involved, and you can see a big pay-off a lot quicker. Remember, Apple didn’t invent the cellphone–they just made one that’s special.
  2. Make ‘going to work,’ a worthwhile experience. If you want an exceptional company, you need exceptional people on staff. There’s nothing exceptional about merely working for a paycheck. The best people demand more in return for what they have to offer. And while onsite game rooms, espresso machines, and a ‘fun environment’ may be nice perks, what truly makes a difference to excellent employees is feeling that they are valued members of your team, that their opinions and concerns are respected, that they have real stakes in the future of your company.
  3. Keep an eye on the customer. Guess what … customers are important to the success of a business! But while these coveted creatures are prominently mentioned in just about every mission statement, they are surprisingly easy to forget about during everyday trials and tribulations. Successful Silicon Valley companies put a lot of effort into improving the ‘customer experience’ and you should as well. Never stop ‘beta testing’ by constantly seeking customer feedback through both formal channels (surveys, online comments … etc.) and informally (e.g. ask them about how your company is doing when you talk with them!).
  4. Bring focus to your meeting by not having a formal meeting. Picture a meeting at work … perhaps 6 – 10 people gathered around a conference table, most of them with something more important they could/should be doing. They neither want nor need the distraction, even as you’re working hard to get them engaged. Why bother? Instead, invite just key individuals to go for a walk, or catch them at an opportune moment for a ‘standing up’ meeting. Not only will you have their undivided attention as you discuss an issue at hand, but they’ll feel as though they’ve been singled out to offer you their counsel and assistance.
  5.  Adopt a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) methodology. When technology companies begin developing a new product or a website, they usually don’t go all out right from the beginning. Instead, they start by offering enough functionality to ensure sufficient consumer interest for keeping the product afloat in the market. They aren’t being stingy, rather the MVP model allows for continuous product improvement based on customer feedback without wasting time and resources on a lot of features that no one really wants very much. In due course, the product will be magnificent! Why not take the same approach as you offer new products and/or services to your customers?
  6. Develop ‘smart’ systems among your staff. As long as they’re just one other person working with you in your business, that’s one person who needs to know your roles and functions in the business as well as his or her own. Even if one employee can’t be expected to serve as the backup for another, she or he can always take an active role in identifying and reporting problems to correct individuals as they may arise and by providing perspective and assistance in working through those issues.
  7. Fix problems immediately as they arise. If you aren’t familiar with the processes of software development, you may not know the word ‘iterate.’ This is basically when a line a code is tested to see if it does what it’s supposed to do. Coders iterate as they go along, otherwise it’s a lot like finding the proverbial needle in haystack to locate one line of bad code later on. This may seem a bit unnervingly meticulous in your particular line of work, but devoting conscientious attention to details and eliminating problems when they are small will pay big dividends later on.

The brands that hail from Silicon Valley (Apple, Cisco, Google … etc.) have made their mark on the world by introducing technology products that extend the boundaries of reality into the realms of imagination. (And we at SynchroNet are happy to help you sort those out!) By adopting some of Silicon Valley’s techniques, perhaps you too can build a business that changes the world … or at minimum, simply improves your company’s bottom line.