Bear with me, I am going to get to an interesting business point, but I have a seemingly unrelated story to tell first.
Quite a few of my friends are gay. Its Mardi Gras season in Sydney at the moment, which means it’s a very busy time, particularly as almost all my gay friends have senior roles organising the various events around Mardi Gras. Its busy for me as I tend to be asked (and quite frankly, I very much enjoy) to volunteer wherever I can. So this past weekend was Mardi Gras Fair Day, a fun day of markets, shows, stalls, and general revelry at Victoria Park. Check out ‘Fair Day’-tagged photos from Flickr to see what it was all about… stunning setting on a gorgeous day, drag queens, gorgeous men, loving lesbians, dog shows, hula hoop dancing, a Sea of Hearts, picnics, etc.
My friend who is Marketing Chair for Mardi Gras came up with this idea (well, the English did it first, but he was the first to do it in Australia) to create a pink Australian flag. Its just a bit of fun – for those living outside Australia, let me give you the quick run-down on the significance of this: Each Australia Day there is a big music concert called Big Day Out. This year, organisers of the event asked if people could not bring Australian flags with them, in case it incited bigotry-based riots (reminiscent of the horribly embarrassing Cronulla Beach incident of 2005). This request caused a public outcry, with the organisers finally backing down, and festival-goers in turn acted very peacefully, and abundantly decked out in the Australian flag.
So the presence of an Australian flag at a festival like Fair Day was a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour. Making it pink, was a cheeky little twist to it, offering gay Australians a flag they might choose to humorously adopt. All in all, it was incredibly well received, particularly as sales of the flag were going to charity. I was enlisted to help sell the flags, so there I was happily strolling around the sunny park, chatting to lots of people about the fun idea that the pink Aussie flag represented.
Towards the end of my day, a man of Aboriginal descent approached me, and asked me fervently if I had a pink Aboriginal flag. We had heard angry whispers throughout the day as we passed from people clearly not fond of the Australian flag, due to its colonial heritage, but this was the first time I was directly accosted. I was quite flummoxed… and stammered something of the lines of ‘No, sorry, we don’t. The angry man continued ‘So why is that?’, and I feeling quite uncomfortable said ‘Sorry, mate, I didn’t organise that flag, I’m just selling it’, which in retrospect, is a bit lame, I admit. The man stared at me intensely, and said ‘You understand why I’m upset, don’t you?’ and then stormed off.
Not wanting to launch into a debate about indigenous Australia or the Australian flag, what this encounter made me think about (I told you there was a point to this story) was how its just not possible to make everyone happy.
Even if we had made a version of both the Australian and Aboriginal flag in pink, you would still get anti-monarchists upset that we were supporting a flag with the British union jack on it, or people that disagreed with changing the flag in support of a gay cause, or migrants who may have wanted their national flags represented… the point is, no matter what was done, there would be someone violently opposed to it. So do we try and accommodate as many requests as we can, ignore the complaints and go ahead, or do nothing in the first place. This – I propose – is a common challenge in designing a new business.
I will no doubt get a lot of feedback, advice, issues raised, features requested, etc, during soft launch of my site, and the challenge I know I will face is deciding which items to take on board, and which ones I will have to decline, even if they are entirely valid, because its simply not possible to accommodate everyone’s desires and still make a quality product with a strong and memorable impact. Of course, I will aim to cater to as many people as I can, and make as many people happy as I can, but I will need to stay focused on what my site is trying to achieve, and do that really well, rather than be mediocre to many people.
Its possible I won’t get that balance right: that I will decide against a requested development and inadvertently turn away potential customers that I could have easily accommodated in my design. But like anything in life, I have to accept that I will make mistakes, and instead of worrying about it, focus on learning as much and working as hard as I can to minimise these occurrences.
What are your thoughts?