product development lessons (2)

A couple of years ago I made the odd transition from Yorkshire Landlord to a Technology Start-up in Sydney, Glasshat.

Now, it’s highly likely that at some point in your adult life you’ve pulled a few shifts behind a bar or had a drink or two in a pub… and so the first insight I’m going to share with you isn’t going come as much of a surprise. 

The basics of running a successful pub are fairly simple; people wanted some kind of drink, you provided them with a drink and they gave you money.

Knowing what made our customers happy was also relative easy, as they were often pretty vocal and generous with their feedback. They were more than happy to share their thoughts on:

  • The prices, the products, the music and staff
  • Their annoyance when we ran out of their favourite drink
  • How unhappy they were when they had to wait to be served
  • Their dissatisfaction if they thought the beer tasted crap

Fast-forward 30 months and 16,867 kilometres and here I am – out from behind the bar and working as part of the team developing the Glasshat technology.

And although I’m a million miles away from my past career I’ve come to realise something – there are some fundamental things that I learnt from behind the bar that I’ve been apply to the process of building the Glasshat platform.

1. Know your customer really well

Ok, so I said a bar was simple and people just wanted a drink, most people wouldn’t disagree with that. But what type of bar you are, and what kind of drinks you serve differs greatly from pub to pub.

I would like to think that that we were the kind of bar where you’d take a first date. I mean, we had wallpaper, made cocktails and some of our bottles of wine were hard to pronounce.

However, without fail every Saturday night a group of lads would walk in and demand bubble-gum flavoured shots and rounds of alcopops at a pound a pop. They wanted the music turning up, cheap and dirty drinks, and they wanted everyone to get involved with their Saturday night.  So when they didn’t return the next week – did I mind that I hadn’t managed to retain these customers?


Luckily with software the customers you cater for are less intoxicated and rowdy, but you still can’t please everyone and you have to be realistic about that. One thing that I have learnt from working with the team is that in order to develop Glasshat we need to focus on OUR customers, we can’t stop to build features that everyone wants – otherwise you will never move forward.




2. Figure out the experience your customer wants – not what you think they want.

A slightly cocky bartender once told me:

“You have to make all the girls laugh, all the boys want to be your mate and all the old ladies think you’re a charming young man”

He was a bit of a creep, but he did have a valid point about knowing who you are dealing with and tailoring the experience you provide accordingly.

Some customers want minimal interaction. They are the customers who just came in for a quiet drink. They wanted to order, get their drink quickly and were quite happy to sit themselves at the end of the bar and read a paper. Simple.

Other customers came to the bar and wanted to chat about their day, and it was your job as barman to listen and ask the right questions.

Creating custom experiences when using a piece of software isn’t quite as easy as tailoring your manner to suit the person you are serving – but the overlying principles remain the same.

Some of our customers need more attention then others, as they are still keen to engage with us, even as a technology provider. They need to be shown and guided through how to use the platform, and while there will always be the users who are more confident and are happy to log in and experiment themselves – you must always cater for those who require more attention – or else you will lose them.




3. Let your customer know what’s happening

When I was working as a Landlord I quickly came to realise that communication with customers was key. Imagine the scenario:

It’s Saturday night and you have to change a barrel. You’re half way through mixing up half a dozen Old Fashioned’s and then the bartender cuts his hand on some broken glass…

The customer you just took from an order is probably going to be waiting for at least 10 minutes before they see their drinks. So tell them, as soon as you can.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt from my first few months as working as a Landlord is that people really don’t mind – so long as you tell them.

With a technology platform you can’t see the customers, and to a certain degree the pressure is off slightly. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t meant that they aren’t getting just as frustrated if something isn’t working, or they are having to wait for you to deliver their custom SEO actions back to then.




As humans, we’re pretty flawed. We mess up, we forget stuff, and we misread the signals that tell us what other people want.

But by gaining frequent feedback, creating an open dialogue and thinking about creating an experience that meets the customers needs we’re well on our way to building an SEO technology platform that people actually want – not what we think they want. 

Find out more about what the Glasshat team are working on by visiting our website.