The importance of candid communication when things go wrong with your product

There’s been a bunch of Evernote post-mortems, but I did enjoy the backstory and humor of A Unicorn Lost in the Valley, Evernote Blows Up the ‘Fail Fast’ Gospel. CEO Ian Small also makes a point about honesty and candor that’s really important for product managers to understand. He talks about how customers reacted when they finally came clean about the app’s quality issues:

Customers responded to his candor with a mix of optimism and skepticism, Mr. Small said. “The fact that we were able to tell the truth — that they already knew to be true — was a change of pace, not just for Evernote but for every tech-company relationship they probably have,” he said.

How we communicate when things go wrong lays your company’s soul bare. Hide behind “sorry for the inconvenience” and other fluffy language, and customers will lose trust. Be honest and show true empathy, and you’ll build stronger relationships.

I also really like this quote:

Now Mr. Small faces the challenge of recruiting engineers to fix Evernote’s “unique collection of bugs,” when they could be riding a bullet train to riches at a newer company. Hot start-ups can spend lavishly on engineering talent; they can always raise more if they’re growing quickly. Evernote has a different, more mature goal. It expects to reach positive cash flow this year, with annual revenue of nearly $100 million. “We used to be a movement,” Mr. Small said. “When we were a movement, we weren’t a business.”

Too many companies try to build “movements” instead of sustainable businesses that provide real value to customers.

👉 Also see Ahead of Its Time, Behind the Curve: Why Evernote Failed to Realize Its Potential.