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Do This Before You Build Your Next App and Other Must-Read Business Tips

A look at why you shouldn't build an app on gut instinct alone, why you should release product features one at a time and more advice for business owners.
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A roundup of the best tips of the week from

Entrepreneurs tend to be hard-driving, ambitious optimists. But those positive traits can get them into trouble when it comes to overestimating customer appetite for a new app (or any other product or service, for that matter). You shouldn't assume that just because you're interested in something, others will be too. "Most apps fail because entrepreneurs do not validate their product with actual customers who would be willing to pay," says Rahul Varshneya, a startup coach and co-founder of Arkenea LLC, a mobility and cloud solutions company with offices in the U.S. and India.

So before you shell out thousands of dollars and God knows how many man-hours to build an app, find a way to confirm interest in it. Put it on a crowdsourcing platform, create a landing page touting its benefits, get people to sign up for a mailing list so that you can send them updates about your progress on the app. Best of all, build a prototype and run a beta test. See how users react. "You need to start small, perfect your product with your local market and make all the mistakes there," Varshneya says. "Once you've done that, you can easily replicate your successes in other cities and countries." More: Why Your Mobile App Sucks And Will Never Sell.

Release product features piecemeal.
Although it's tempting to try to perfect your product before setting it loose in the world, it's better to adhere to a lean startup model and improve things over time, fixing bugs as they pop up, says David Chait, co-founder of group travel tool Travefy. Releasing everything at once can make it difficult to distinguish between features that users love and those they hate or don't care about. "By releasing in pieces, you can individually test the response to that feature, learn from it and incorporate into future releases," he says. More: Why the Motto 'If You Build It, They Will Come' is BS

Work consistently on projects in order to stay current on the market.
Working consistently and frequently is a much better way to accomplish your goals than working in bursts of energy, according to Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Manage Your Day-to-Day. What's more, frequent immersion in a project or industry makes it much easier to spot trends and opportunities, says Martin Zwilling, a startup mentor and angel investor. Engage in frequent discussions with colleagues and keep up a running dialogue with your customers to stay current.

Provide resources to prevent or treat substance abuse among employees.
Every company should have a written policy that prohibits substance abuse during work hours, and employees should be made to read and sign it, says Cali Estes, a certified drug and alcohol therapist. Violating this policy should be a fireable offense. But you should also go the extra mile by providing your employees with a list of local support groups, treatment facilities and other resources that can help anyone struggling with substance addiction to get clean and stay that way. .

Think about retail space when designing your packaging.
Brick-and-mortar stores have limited floor space, and it's expensive. If you want to sell your product in retail shops, you should make sure it takes up as little space as possible, says Michael Hoggatt, the chief executive of Leardon Solutions, a multinational corporation that provides product development services to businesses. Do a little scouting: What do similar items look like in stores? Do the packages stack or hang? Where are they displayed? Once you've done that, you may want to work with a company that specializes in package design to give yourself the best shot at securing some shelf space for your widget.