Start With The Bread

March 22, 2011

I’m a foodie. If you want to know what I miss the most about my Microsoft salary, it’s my restaurant budget. Which is probably why I’m eating a lot of sandwiches lately.

Every time I bite into a great sandwich, I notice the bread. When you order a gourmet sandwich, the bread is the last thing on your mind. Yet any great chef knows a great sandwich cannot exist without the perfect bread. A great sandwich can exist without the perfect ingredients; some bread is so good it doesn’t matter what you pair it with (if anything).

If you’ve ever been to Paseo in Fremont or Ballard for a Cuban sandwich, you know what I’m talking about. You can’t go wrong ordering any sandwich on their menu. Not to undermine the perfection of what goes on inside their sandwiches, they just wouldn’t succeed without the Macrina bread. And they know it: the bread is so important, they stop selling sandwiches when they run out instead of sending a runner to another bakery. If you think the meat is the most important thing, order the onion sandwich and thank me later. Likewise, bread is (part of) the reason so many people eat the mystery meat at Subway.

In contrast, I was very disappointed when I went to Salumi, Mario Batali’s father’s restaurant famous for its artisan cured meats. While I’m a fan of their meats, I would never order a sandwich from them again. The bread is so thick and dry that you can’t taste the meat. Great ingredients do not a great sandwich make. Sandwiches fail when the focus is on what’s inside, and the bread is an after-thought.

When you build your product, start with the bread. It’s easy to get caught up in the ingredients – the wonderful features – and overlook the importance of the structural platform that ties it all together. Yes, that BBQ brisket may be delicious, but if you put it in-between wonderbread you’ve failed.

At LazyMeter, we’ve already logged 100 features for task management, but we also know that those features are useless without a workflow that actually helps people get things done. There are countless task manager products with every feature from SMS alerts to collaboration, but there’s a reason most people don’t use one – none offer a workflow requiring less time and providing more satisfaction than pen and paper. They’ve ignored the bread.

My advice: start with the bread.

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