Running a start-up is a hero or heroine’s tale: there is a quest, and times of self-doubt and sacrifice on the way to the goal. It’s like a marathon that never ends, especially when your own funds – and those of friends and family – run low and everyone is wondering whether your start-up is ever going to launch.
You startup dream of the day when you can check your online bank statement and find a continual revenue stream being deposited into your company account. OK, back to reality….
If you find yourself diverting your time and attention from speaking with customers and industry segments towards pitching to investors, take a step back and refocus. When the money gets tight, there’s a tendency to get desperate.
The habits you form as a start-up CEO are going to be the habits you carry forward as your company grows. It’s important to maintain discipline by aligning your products and platforms with your markets.
Otherwise, you may form a habit of being out-of-touch from the get-go.
Investors are looking for entrepreneur CEOs who are “into” creating start-ups. These folks are a good investment; they’ve got guts to be a CEO and have a firm understanding that runs across all the functions of their start-up.
Are you that type of start-up CEO?
It’s a pivot question you will have to ask yourself constantly throughout the start-up process. Those types of CEOs align products and platforms with markets; they seem to have their fingers on the pulse of what needs to be done. These are CEOs who thrive in birthing new ventures: to them, being an entrepreneur is not a means to an end. It’s a constant beginning.
Did I just describe you?
If you now find yourself spending 100% of your time pitching to investors for cash and entering business competitions – in place of talking with potential customers – you may not be in touch with your markets. Pretty soon you will find yourself creating a product or platform that satisfies what investors are willing to invest in, instead of what customers want to buy and markets demand.
Consider the possibility that you were not quite doing your job.
Let’s take a look at your job description:
1.) understanding the value your company delivers to the various customer segments you identify (and continue to identify);
2.) discovering industry issues which form the ecosystem that your customer segments “live” in;
3.) being where these conversations are taking place, hearing what these conversations sound like, forming hypotheses about what you have heard, and testing your hypotheses in real live conversations with these decision makers;
4.) uncovering what customer needs are, and creating products and platforms that are robust enough to anticipate where industry and marketplace trends are going, concurrent with customer discovery conversations, hypothesis testing, and determining what the minimum viable feature set is for your product and platform.
When Your Customers are defined as Your Investors, you position yourself outside of the end-user conversations critical to development of your products or platforms.
This stuff isn’t easy to do.
So have you been doing your homework? Or have you been pitching to investors, hoping someone will take the load off your hands and, by virtue of their investment, give you a paying job?
Perhaps taking a week off from pitching and spending a week discovering your customers’ voice is just the pivot you need to make.
Did you think this is what you were getting yourself into when you decided to form your start-up?
Have you had a similar experience with your start-up?
How have you addressed this situation?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.
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