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MVP (Minimum Viable Product) A phrase that is now over used and is part of everyday conversation. I’ve heard the process applied to everything ranging from house remodeling to business partnerships. Building a small business means that we should look at just about everything we do in the terms of a MVP. What can we provide that produces enough information to learn if it will be successful in the shortest possible time; allowing the understanding of its efficacy without spending too much. The problem is that I hate it! I love the idea but it can be embarrassing if I put something out and people that I respect see it while it is unfinished – so to speak. I’m sure this won’t impress Agile experts but when it comes to building out the core platform for Brainstorm, I was irrationally compelled to choose the Cadillacs of technology and most likely spent way too much the core architecture and other supporting elements to run the business.

I realize that this is both expensive and it took a ton of time but I just couldn’t let my provide outweigh the obvious benefits that an MVP offers. Small businesses don’t have either time, resources, and money in abundance so this is a very risky decision. Luckily, we are able to afford more expense up-front but most businesses don’t have that luxury. I was speaking with a former colleague the other day and he asked me why I didn’t just build my product on another cloud hosting provider and act as a reseller. This is a completely rational and frankly a much more fiscally wise option. Irrationally, I just couldn’t make that choice because of my big dreams that Brainstorm will become the next giant in the WordPress hosting industry and also just the innate pride that I feel when I make decisions on the product I want to provide my customers.

When I think back to the decisions I made early in building out the business, I thought long and hard about what I wanted my platform to look like and how I wanted to architect it for the “long haul”. In my grand dreams, I found myself thinking that one day Brainstorm will be able to bring my system together with another hosting company that feels the same way about systems and customers that I do …  and I want to have pride in what I built and I want it to be able to integrated quickly; No major refactoring.
No complicated migrations. No bitching and moaning operations teams that curse the need to work extra hours to shoe horn systems together. Of course, I chose Amazon Web Services (high-end), WHMCS, WHM & cPanel and I am using best-in-class technologies and partners such as NGINX, Varnish, Cloudflare, JetPack, and Hexonet (domains). This all added dev cycles and dollars to the project at the expense of valuable time and resources. Quality first – sorry, no MVP here.

Customer support – Enter Zendesk  Another foundational platform choice is how I was going to build out my support infrastructure. We certainly could have gone down the MVP path here but it is another area where I just was not willing to skimp on even though a “good enough” solution would have been perfectly appropriate at this time. My pride just won’t let me do it. This obviously resulted in more time and money. We are obsessed about providing the best possible support experience for our customers. This is very important for large hosting businesses but even more important for companies like Brainstorm that need to provide a concierge level of service for their early customers. If you don’t invest in a great system, the most valuable customers will immediately take their business elsewhere.

I have been long acquainted with Zendesk; working with them at previous companies. The major issue with Zendesk is that it is NOT cheap. After doing research in several other solutions, I found that Zendesk is the perfect tool for a company like Brainstorm. It includes a fully integrated Chat, Phone, Help Center, and APIs that allow for a seamless customer sales and support experience. Zendesk’s system tie into very detailed analytics and it is easy to move from channel to channel to support a customer. In Zendesk there is a notion of pending, which indicates that a ticket is pending customer response to your message. You’re then able to create custom views which can, for example, show everything pending customer response, or another view which only shows tickets in New or Open statuses for each group. This makes it a dream to know what is actually on your plate this moment, so you can quickly power through those tickets.

Unfortunately Zendesk only comes with  three basic templates for their Help Center knowledge base and they aren’t very stylish but that can be fixed with some elbow grease. We created our own custom Zendesk theme which we are very proud of and are now making available to our customers that want to build out their own custom Zendesk Help Center experience. All WordPress hosting plans come with the ability to download them in the Brainstorm client center; our own premium MVP to help accelerate the customer support experience for your small business.