Curtis FitchCurtis Fitch

By Simon Minter

Simon Minter, CF’s joint CEO, talks about where Curtis Fitch started and how we first got the technology out of the box and into your hands.

Solving the problem 

Some people say to me that it must be amazing to start your own company and develop a product from the ground up. They’re probably right.  With a successful product launch there’s usually a large amount of self-satisfaction, self-achievement and some high fives, but that’s not my style.  No, instead I settled immediately for the, “How can I make it better?” feeling.  It was a problem that kept me awake at night and made me want to get up in the morning.  Success for me, was a bi-product of my problem solving.

From the start 

In the beginning, it was hard and I made a lot of mistakes.  I designed a product from nothing – File/New.  I listened to people around me who helped the product take shape, how the product should work, what its limitations should be and how it should behave. I soon learned that these people were not really giving me problems to solve, they were giving me solutions to problems . . . and that was my job, not theirs.

Curtis Fitch Mockup, 2004

An early mockup of Curtis Fitch, circa 2004…

So I decided to tackle the problem from a different angle and I talked to the end users.  My aim was to understand their problems and to calculate the risks, inefficiencies, boundaries, rules and regulations they worked with.  I immersed myself in their world and asked lots of questions.

I believe the biggest mistake you can make when designing a product, is to take a solution and make it work without asking, “Why are you doing it that way in first place?” This is something a non-product designer may not necessarily ask.

Curtis Fitch v1

…which became Curtis Fitch v1.

I asked questions like: Why does it need a Serial Number?  Why does that person need to rubber-stamp it, when you could do it and we could show an audit trail?  Why are you limiting it to that number?  What does that person do? What is that document for? etc.  To me, they’re obvious questions to ask, but interestingly other people don’t ask them.  Instead, they take a process/product/problem that’s already in existence, write it down and then say,“Let’s put that in the software!” or “Let’s put all that in a box and put our badge on the side.”  Believe me, I didn’t want or need a buttonless mobile device until Apple made the iPhone! And now we all use these exciting products, even if today we take them for granted.

Don’t get me wrong, refinement is a great thing and perfecting that is a skill.  To take something and make it better is just as exciting, but questions should be asked along the way.   Canvas opinion and listen to everyone in the room, not just the loudest. Fully understand why something is currently working a particular way and ask, “Does it still need to be done like that?”  Don’t take anything for granted.

Curtis Fitch iSource

…which eventually became Curtis Fitch iSource

Ask questions and listen

Mark Twain once said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I don’t believe this is true when you’re product solving.  I’ve had my fair share of disbelieving looks when I’ve asked ‘dumb questions!’   I learnt to ignore them and more importantly, I used the new information they’ve provided to tick something off, cross something out or to draw a line to a new solution box.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If you are the type who craves self-satisfaction, then just watch their face later when you unveil the product – especially if solves the problem in a better and smarter way.

Our software and company has grown, successfully, beyond all expectations. We now assist some of the biggest and greatest companies in the world. By asking questions, solving problems, inventing new products, pushing the boundaries and refining old ones and investing time, passion and money, it’s got bigger and better.  It’s got smarter and more user friendly. It’s getting slicker.

CF-Slick

Curtis Fitch is getting slicker…

What’s next?

Nowadays, I don’t have much time for the product development . . . running a company takes up my time.  Instead I’ve got a team of likeminded individuals who can do this for me.  Designers, consultants, document writers, account managers and project managers.  All sharp and on-the-ball.  All doing a much better job than I ever did.  Cleverer in every way, bringing fresh ideas and tackling problems from different angles with different techniques.

I made version one, but these people will make versions 10, 20 and so on.  They will invent and refine.  They will ask lots of questions and solve lots of problems.

 

I get out of bed in the mornings for these people.

 

It’s still exciting.

simonminter
About simonminter
When the winter comes, it’s my time. I’m at one with the mountains, the snow and my snowboard. I just plug my earphones in and ride all day.
CF, in the beginning