Thomas Fuchs
Hi, I'm Thomas Fuchs. I'm the author of Zepto.js, of, and I'm a Ruby on Rails core alumnus. With Amy Hoy I'm building cheerful software, like Freckle Time Tracking and Every Time Zone and write books like
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5 things I’ve learned in 5 years of running a SaaS

November 27th, 2013


Photo Credit: Will Clayton cc

Freckle Time Tracking is turning five on December 1. In 5 years of being a co-founder of Freckle I’ve learned a lot of things, but here are 5 important takeaways. Maybe it helps you on your path to product nirvana:

1. You’re not a “tech company”—you’re a “make customers awesome” company
People don’t pay you because you have amazing programming skills and can write nginx configurations blindfolded. People pay you money because the product you sell to them saves them time, money, effort and nerves. It’s your job to make your customer more awesome. Every decision you make for your product and business should revolve around that.

2. Never promise dates for a feature launch
Just don’t promise launch dates for a feature. Ever. Trust me on this. People will ask you all the time when “feature X” is ready. A good way to answer that question is (if you plan on doing it), “We’re considering this feature for a future version. I can’t give you a date on when it will be ready.”. Just be honest to your customers—you don’t know yourself if and when a feature will really be ready.

3. Spend money on things that help you stay productive
This includes obvious stuff like a laptop that doesn’t suck (upgrade often), a good working chair and desk, and less obvious things like software that allows you to concentrate on developing your application’s features rather than configuring servers.

4. Do not work too much
Overworking yourself is the first step to failure in business. You can’t do your best if you’re permanently stressed out. Don’t check email in the evenings. If you’re only 1 or 2 people, don’t provide 24/7 support. It’s ok. Customers understand. It helps to not have a mission-critical product (if Time Tracking goes down it’s annoying but people can take a note on paper).

You didn’t start a company to die of exhaustion. Your health, family and social life is more important than 5 minute support response times and a 100% uptime guarantee.

By the way, one way to keep on top of this is to keep track on how you spend your time.

5. Don’t believe the hype
People are good at getting excited. And people are good at believing the hype™ about new technologies, frameworks, programming languages and ways to deploy. People will tell you what to do and what to plan for. That you need to scale to millions of users, and you’re doomed if you don’t plan for that. That generating HTML on the server is so 1994. That node.js will cure cancer.

The fact is that you need to be pragmatic—your goal is to run a business. Use technology that is proven (to you), and that you know how to work with. My “litmus test” for technology is if the people that provide it are in a similar situation as you are: having to rely on it to run their own business (this quickly weeds out cool-but-academic-only stuff). You need to optimize for shipping. That includes writing less code, having broad test coverage, and concentrate on getting things out in order of long-term profitability for your business.

Good luck with your business! :)