Scott O’Neil shares his product launch secrets

Scott O’Neil had moments during the launch of MarketSmith where he just felt completely lost.

“I’ve been in a few meetings where they bury me and I just say, ‘Please, just draw me a picture,’” says O’Neil, president of the 200-employee investment research firm.

MarketSmith is a wholly owned subsidiary of William O’Neil + Co. and has developed the next generation of the company’s popular Daily Graphs Online investment research service.

“The launch was very professionally done, but it was nerve-wracking,” O’Neil says. “It was tough launching a whole new major product like that.”

The biggest challenge in launching a new product is figuring out when you’re ready to unleash it on the world.

“They always want a little more time to make sure fit and finish is really good and solid and tight,” O’Neil says of your product team. “You kind of have to force them with deadlines. So there is that tug of war. When you get down to that moment, if that product is not quite ready and you launch, you’re going to pay in multiple ways.”

So what steps can you take to make sure your product is actually ready to be launched? You can start by getting a number of different people to test your product.

“We would take it out of the technologists’ hands and put it into a business analyst’s hands on their desk,” O’Neil says. “They would work it and they would try to break it and give it the going over.”

It’s important that some of these people that you have testing your product are people from outside of your primary circle.

“It never hurts to get a fresh opinion or an opinion from the outside,” O’Neil says. “For instance, a couple times over the years, I might find someone that is much more my senior that has just been in business longer with lots of experience. I’ll sit down and have a cup of coffee.”

It can’t just be you judging whether your product is ready and it can’t just be your cronies who can be counted on to praise every word that comes out of your mouth or every product that you develop.

“It’s impossible for an individual to be an expert in numerous different fields,” O’Neil says. “If you have a team and it’s a high-caliber team and there are experts in various fields, you are significantly stronger as an entity.”

As you’re getting feedback from people, if it differs from your expectations or if you find that people don’t necessarily love what you’ve come up with, don’t just dismiss it in favor of your own idea. Your people have to believe they’re not wasting their breath by offering their opinion.

“That boosts morale and gives them tremendous energy to really want to accomplish something,” O’Neil says. “Then of course, the person that sits next to them sees that person and they say, ‘Gee, coach. Give me the football and let me run.’”

Of course at some point, you need to stop fiddling around and either launch your product or try something else.

“At a certain point, you have to draw the line on what’s going into the product and just launch it,” O’Neil says. “You have to say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re going to have to wait for the next bus and that will be version 1.5.’”

If you do it right and take the right amount of time to plan, you should have a solid launch.

“Absolutely in spades I’ve seen this where we were prepared for a lot of road bumps when we launched and we really didn’t have very many because of all this front-end preparation,” O’Neil says.

Engage your team

Scott O’Neil doesn’t want to make every decision at MarketSmith. If you are making every decision in your business, you may be headed for trouble.

“You have to push authority down and I mean far,” says O’Neil, president at the 200-employee investment research firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of William O’Neil + Co.

“I don’t mean just down a little bit. In the end, you have to trust people that they will accomplish the task. They have to believe they control their destiny.”

O’Neil talks about the work environment at MarketSmith on a regular basis. He wants work to get done, but he wants it done in a way where everybody is taking part in the journey.

“Create an environment that is conducive to everyone’s growth,” O’Neil says. “Your company will grow and your customer base will grow. Another very important point. You want positive, can-do people. Cut loose disruptive, negative people. You don’t have time for that. They’re infectious. Over the years, I’ve removed two individuals for general negativity. I’m not proud of that, but that was the reason.”

O’Neil says it’s the failure to involve others in your business that dooms many leaders.

“They don’t always listen,” O’Neil says. “I can tell you probably over half the decisions in this company, I’m not making. I don’t make them. We’ve got a lot of competent people and they are out there doing it.”

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