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9 October 2012

Letting go

By Andrew Clifford

As a parent, you have to learn to let go.

I really felt that today. My five year old daughter has been learning to ride a bike. Today she was finally ready to go by herself, without stabilisers and without being held. My wife and I took turns running along holding her, and then letting her go to cycle by herself.

Professionally, we need to let go too. When we have created something, we have to let it go, to give it a chance to survive by itself in the big wide world, without our constant care and attention. If something is to grow and be successful, it has to outgrow its creators.

I have another big piece of letting go to do this week. We are exhibiting our Advisor software at the Gartner 2012 EMEA Outsourcing & Strategic Partnerships Summit in London. We have to push our software out into the big, wide world.

It is hard to let go because we are not doing it alone. We have partnered with another company, and are presenting our software through their brand. Working with other people means taking on a lot of other ideas. It means letting go of how we might like to think of the software, and accepting the experience of our partners on how best to present it. We have to trust our creation, our baby, to the care of someone else.

Selling software is very different from building it. To sell successfully, you have to be confident, even brash and pushy. This is very different from the quiet, geeky world of software development. I know that how we are selling it is for the best, and is something we have to do, but it does not mean that it comes easily.

What is the alternative? Much as I would love to polish software all day long, to make it ever more elegant and efficient, there is no point unless it does valuable things. And it is never going to do valuable things until a lot of people use it. And we are never going to get a lot of people to use it unless we sell it to them. We have to engage in the most effective sales process we can, however foreign it seems to us. We have to let go of how we think of the software, and submit it to someone else's sales process.

Of course I worry, just like I worry about my daughter on her bicycle. I worry that people won't like it. I worry that it won't work. I worry that it won't stack up against other products. I worry that we won't be able to explain to people just how wonderful and special it is. But I have to face these worries, and do it anyway.

Today, my daughter managed to ride her bike. A bit wobbly, but no crashes and no tears. One of those truly delightful moments of being a parent.

On the professional side, I will have to see what this weeks brings. All being well it will be a resounding success, and we will see our products making their own way in the world. But even if things don't go OK, letting go is still the right thing to do.

Next: Hooray for marketing

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