Shop the Problem, Not the Product

The Philosophy

“A start-up begins with a vision: a vision of a new product or service, how the product will reach its customers, and why lots of people will buy it.” I believe this sounds right thus far.

“But most of what a startup’s founders initially believe about their market and potential customers are just educated guesses. A startup is in reality a ‘faith-based enterprise’ on day one.” Now that was a humorous reality, but I can still agree. Customer Discovery is “to turn faith into facts…to know whether they have a valid vision or just a hallucination.” (Blanks, 2013, pg. 43)

Customer Discovery occurs when you seek out potential customers to buy your product or service. Blanks defines it as “time to hit the streets and identify your repeat buyers.” This discovery goes beyond gathering electronic market data. Instead it translates into being “…out in the field, listening, discovering how consumers worked and what their key problems were.” (Blank, 2013, p.28)


The Question?

When you began this journey, did you shop your product or service or did you shop the problem that your product or service would solve?

I find this question very important when building a business. Are we following our passion and dreams or actually lending our dreams to a product or service that can solve a problem, which will provide sustainability for your company. It’s like applying for a grant. Many people think they have a great idea for someone to fund. When in reality, your idea needs to fit the goals and mission of a granting organization. It’s all about how you fit in the grantee’s world and so it also is about the consumer that you will be serving.

“The concept is deceptively simple: form hypotheses around the problem that your product solves, and around the product itself, test these hypotheses with those who could be your potential customers to verify, iterate or exit. This discovery process is part of the larger customer development model where the minimally viable product resulting from customer discovery undergoes validation testing among customers.” (savvyinternetmarketing)

I agree with Savvy Internet Marketing when they say it’s “deceptively simple.” You have to get the buy in from a group of strangers that will agree that what you are offering will solve their problem. And remember the problem may not exist yet. Once you gather real data, you are testing or tweaking to make adjustments from their feedback. Then you hit the pavement again to gather another round of feedback. In this round, you have your reality check of where the pairing of the product/service and the consumer provides conclusive evidence; to draw a conclusion you hope will say that you have made the right decision and it makes sense financially.  It’s the beginning or the end.

Just think, you haven’t sold a thing, but you have gathered valuable information that will allow you to be profitable. This in depth approach to gaining a viable consumer following could make the difference in a start-up’s continued success. And don’t think it’s the end, it’s just a place on the journey. Our value position can change over time. That time could be before we open the doors or later on when the market changes. Or even more, the problem could change. Your willingness to be open to your competitors as well as your buyers can make a difference in the footprint of your business.

Resources

Blank, Steven G. The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win. 2nd ed. California: Steve Blank, 2013.

Customer Discovery Basics. (2016, November 25). Retrieved February 12, 2019, from http://savvyinternetmarketing.com/customer-discovery-basics/

Keep My Eyes on Mexico

You only fail if you quit…

Eyes on Mexico

There is something about time that makes you wiser and stronger if you will allow it to transform you. I don’t mean change, but truly transform. I know there are some mornings I go through two suits, three blouses and four pairs of shoes until I get the fit and feel for that day, which happens to be the first suit, second blouse and third pair of shoes. So change is interchangeable depending on your mood, perspective or your preference. But transformation comes with a type of metamorphosis where you’ll never be the same; that caterpillar to butterfly kind of thing; a total unrecognizable chain reaction that literally causes you to take flight. And the beauty of it all is that you are equipped with everything necessary to make it happen.

That which stands in between the transformation is time and season. If the caterpillar’s life-changing process is interrupted, it dies. Failure is interruption that could cause your life-changing process (dreams) to die. Getting knocked off your twig by nature (failed attempts) can cripple and crush you transformation. But you have to set your eyes on Mexico; you must take flight or death is inevitable. The transformation is necessary for the journey to a warmer climate (better days). If you do not transform, you die from the cold (giving up). You only fail if you quit.

In his book It’s A Jungle In There, Steven Schussler gives three things to learn from failure to graduate to success. One, failure isn’t permanent. You are working with an EXPO marker and not a SHARPIE. “Failure should act as a stimulus, not paralysis.” (2010, pg. 141) An entrepreneur should have the capacity to get back up again. Two, failure should bring humility. “You need to be humbled by your mistakes, not crippled by them.” (pg. 142) Check your ego and how highly you think of yourself. Humility gives you a window seat to the truth. Your idea wasn’t as great as you thought it was or you aren’t as invincible as you thought you were. Thirdly, failure translates into appreciating success-“…how precious it is to achieve and how difficult it is to maintain.” (pg. 142) Each success is a milestone to be celebrated and treasured. Failures transform you, successes transforms others. Your failures forerun a path for others to learn from and avoid.

We are far greater than the butterfly dangling from that twig with hopes of continued life. Life continues when you recover and keep it moving. Time has shown me those things that I counted as failures like my marriage ending in divorce, loss of that significant job where I had influence and power, or not spending enough quality time with my daughter because I am tired and she thinks I work too much were merely reminders that the life-changing process is just that, a process. As I journey on this entrepreneurial landscape, I’ll keep my eyes on Mexico and never quit … How about you?

Schussler, Steven. (2010) It’s A Jungle In There. New York: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

Count the Cost

Integrity versus Investment

I think we all can agree that when billionaire business mogul and philanthropist Warren Buffet speaks, people listen. Let me mention billionaire one more time for the man that still lives in the home he purchased in 1957. I was reading an article penned by Courtney Connely, “Buffet’s career advice will change how you approach your job,” where CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch said that Buffett who gave her the career advice that had helped her more than any other wisdom she’s received. What was this piece of wisdom? “You cannot make a good deal with a bad person.”

I stopped to ponder what does this statement mean to me. My mind went to ethical behavior, code of conduct, honesty, integrity, trustworthy, kind, and compassionate. Take a look around you, what have you draped yourself with in your circle of influence. Your closest friends project a picture of your future. What are their values? Fortunately, you have an opportunity to spend time with them and get to know your personal partners. But what about your business partners?  Will you have that kind of opportunity to forge a viable relationship before you shake hands on a deal; before you sign on the dotted line; before you say yes? Did you count the cost of the relationship in conjunction with the return on investment?

I encourage you to take inventory of your ships-friendships, relationships and partnerships. A person’s values are just as important as their valuables. Are their words in alignment with their actions? The cost of doing business with one who lacks integrity could cost you your business. Conflicts of interest do not have to exist, the appearance of them is enough for reputation risk that could cost market share. Questionable character can erode your value position. Count the cost.

It is important for entrepreneurs of start-ups to establish a code of conduct for their employees. You set the tone of what is to be expected. Governance and ethics should be part of the culture. If you are employed for a company, find out what is the company’s whistleblowing policy and how do they handle misconduct. If you are seeking employment, do your homework and interview the company to find out what is the tone at the top for ethical behavior. You need to know what is expected and what is tolerated. Everything that sounds good isn’t always good for you.

I encourage you to align yourself with those who walk in integrity, deliver the truth in kindness, even when it stinks, and do what is right in the face of adversity.

Don’t Forget Your Shoes Wealth versus Riches


I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference -Robert Frost

As I am nearing the end of this entrepreneurial education journey at WCU, it marks the transition to the reality of developing wealth. Wealth over riches. I love to shop and eat and small town establishments. Those are the places where you have the stories from generations and not just competitive prices for cheaply made goods or services. It takes courage to say, I have an idea that I think is great; let me put it out there and see if others think it’s great too. Great enough that they are willing to pay for it. This journey will consume many miles of our lives. With every step we take in confidence and courage, know that the wear and tear on our soles makes new pathways for souls of the next generation. As you go forth in finding your niche, I would like to share a perspective of wealth versus riches. I am currently reading Poverty, Riches & Wealth by Kris Vallotton. This book shines a spotlight lack and abundance . See if you are walking in the light that it shines…

POVERTY THINKING versus WEALTH THINKING

  1. Poverty lives for today, but wealth leaves a legacy.
  2. Poverty finds a problem in every opportunity, while wealth finds an opportunity in every problem.
  3. Poverty feels entitled, while wealth feels empowered.
  4. Poverty fears the future, yet wealth makes history.
  5. Poverty hangs around with other disgruntled sorts who validate its accusations, but wealth surrounds itself with other powerful influencers.

RICH MINDSET versus WEALTH MINDSET

  1. Rich people have a vision for the things they can buy. Wealthy people have a vision for the legacy they are leaving.
  2. Rich people think their money protects them; they have a sense of being above the law. Wealthy people are inherently humble, because they are thankful, knowing the source of their provision is greater than themselves.
  3. Rich people compete for money. Wealthy people are compelled to destiny.
  4. Rich people step on others to move up. Wealthy people measure success by the people they help up.
  5. The rich person’s business goal is to make money. The wealthy person’s profession yields profit as the fruit of serving others well.

It is my hope that you find yourself and others in this wisdom that Mr. Vallotton shares. They can be used as soles for your journey to becoming wealthy business owners.

WCU Entrepreneurship

Don’t Forget Your Shoes-Wealth versus Riches


I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference -Robert Frost

As I am nearing the end of this entrepreneurial education journey at WCU, it marks the transition to the reality of developing wealth. Wealth over riches. I love to shop and eat and small town establishments. Those are the places where you have the stories from generations and not just competitive prices for cheaply made goods or services. It takes courage to say, I have an idea that I think is great; let me put it out there and see if others think it’s great too. Great enough that they are willing to pay for it. This journey will consume many miles of our lives. With every step we take in confidence and courage, know that the wear and tear on our soles makes new pathways for souls of the next generation. As you go forth in finding your niche, I would like to share a perspective of wealth versus riches. I am currently reading Poverty, Riches & Wealth by Kris Vallotton. This book shines a spotlight lack and abundance . See if you are walking in the light that it shines…

POVERTY THINKING versus WEALTH THINKING

  1. Poverty lives for today, but wealth leaves a legacy.
  2. Poverty finds a problem in every opportunity, while wealth finds an opportunity in every problem.
  3. Poverty feels entitled, while wealth feels empowered.
  4. Poverty fears the future, yet wealth makes history.
  5. Poverty hangs around with other disgruntled sorts who validate its accusations, but wealth surrounds itself with other powerful influencers.

RICH MINDSET versus WEALTH MINDSET

  1. Rich people have a vision for the things they can buy. Wealthy people have a vision for the legacy they are leaving.
  2. Rich people think their money protects them; they have a sense of being above the law. Wealthy people are inherently humble, because they are thankful, knowing the source of their provision is greater than themselves.
  3. Rich people compete for money. Wealthy people are compelled to destiny.
  4. Rich people step on others to move up. Wealthy people measure success by the people they help up.
  5. The rich person’s business goal is to make money. The wealthy person’s profession yields profit as the fruit of serving others well.

It is my hope that you find yourself and others in this wisdom that Mr. Vallotton shares. They can be used as soles for your journey to becoming wealthy business owners.

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