Having helped kick-start several field organizations in my career, I've noticed that early stage companies make the same mistakes when getting started. Personally, I've fallen into several of these traps at some point.
#1 - activity over perspective
When you're starting something new, there's an easy trap to fall into - and that's the trap of doing. There's always a new hill to climb, largely because no one has climbed any of the hills yet. Anyone that's any good has fallen into this trap at some point, where they started doing before thinking about if and what they should do.
Much like getting a promotion at work starts with changing your perspective, it's extremely important to figure out a north star before you execute. When you don't, you can pretty easily end up with a business that doesn't fit the long-term goals of the company.
This isn't an excuse not to act - just a reminder that when there are a dozen different hills to climb, some of them are more likely to give you the perspective to make better decisions in the future. Be deliberate, then act. It doesn't work the other way.
#2 - doing over leading
Another trap pretty much every field org I've seen fall into is the trap of hiring the wrong person to start your team.
Let me tell you a secret - the likelihood that the first field engineer you hire will hire your second field engineer is basically zero. Why? Because they don't have a clue how to hire or enable a team. And without someone to teach them how to do it, you're going to pay the price of them learning by making rookie mistakes.
Or, you'll hire that first engineer, decide they aren't right to build the team, and then hire them as a boss. The "first" engineer will end up pissed and leaving, and then you are worse off than you would have been otherwise.
Now, I'm not suggesting you should hire a pure manager as your first hire either - instead, look for a player/coach to start your org. And you should set them up as the leader when they join - just expecting they'll be only leading themselves until it's time to grow the team. Usually, that's going to be sooner than you'd expect.
#3 - specialist over generalist
Most companies will look for specialists when hiring their first few field engineers. It's natural, you don't want a team of people who don't understand your space or the nature of your customers. But the challenge is, you simply don't know what problems these new field engineers are going to face.
I can almost guarantee that they'll face problems you aren't expecting.
What you really need for your first few field engineers is a demonstrated ability to figure it out. They need to have the creativity to solve a problem that doesn't have an obvious solution, and the skills to carry it out.
That means the best initial field engineers will almost always fall into the jack-of-all-trades category. Sure, they need to know something about your space, but if they've already shown they can learn new skills quickly, why wouldn't you believe they can learn your space quickly?
#4 - giving up too soon
We've all heard the mantra of "failing fast" - when building a product, it's better to get something out in the market for feedback than it is to build something perfect.
The problem is that now people try to apply this rule to everything, and it doesn't work nearly as well for execution as it does for initial implementation. Why? It's because some things grow linearly, while others grow exponentially.
Adding a feature to a product "should" make it marginally more useful to your customer base, and that should translate into customer starts. So if a feature doesn't have that payoff, it probably makes little sense to continue to invest unless you're hearing that "I'd be using it except..." - which is largely a sign that you missed a step.
When implementing, all the value comes at the end. If you stop before a customer gets to production, even if all the work until that point was excellent, there's no payoff. And if it turns out you missed a step, it's usually easier to go back and amend the plan in the field. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to change directions, when you really just need to put in a bit more effort.
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