The messages for startup founders are flashing all around the Internet: “It’s time to alter your plans.”
So what should you do with your startup?
The number one quest – the hardest thing – for startup leaders to do is to remain customer centric through it all.
Everything else is a distraction.
If you can sustain customer centric focus, you greatly improve your chances of getting through the hard times, emerging stronger and growing.
WHAT TO DO
Here are some practical suggestions.
START HERE - FIND YOUR SITUATION. Rob Go’s recent blog lays out excellent guidance for startups in the early stage, as well as mid-stage and late stage. This will help you put your situation into focus.
- Early Stage: Look out three years and execute to get there. Today’s dark days will be over by time you need to start ramping up Sales.
- Mid-Stage: Extend your runway. That means layoffs. See my prior blog for tips on doing that successfully.
- Late Stage: Live with what you’ve built. Accept the consequences, even sale of the business.
THEN - FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMERS: Talk to them, learn from them, adjust your bplan accordingly. Listening to those people will give you the insight you need to figure out what you need to change in your plan.
- Focusing on the customers is what startups are all about. You win or lose depending on how well you sustain your focus on your customers.
- Distractions get you off the customer centric track, get you working on the wrong things.
- The legends of startups are passionate about remaining customer focused (Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, and more).
- Sam Walton, founder of Walmart: “When you don’t know what to do, go to the store and ask the customers.”
- The goal is to find what is COMPELLING to your Ideal Customer. That is why they love your product and can't wait to Tweet it to all their friends immediately.
- So try doing these simple things:
- Talk to your customers -- on the phone is best, emails only if you have to.
- Call every day, with contact made by you and every one of your leaders for sure, and even your geeks (timid ones can listen in on calls).
- Ask these simple questions:
- Why did your customers . . .
- Start using your product? What got them excited?
- Stop using your product? What disappointed them?
- What’s the profile of your Idea Customer?
- What do they love so much that they are eager to purchase it?
- And eagerly spread the word to friends?
- Why did your customers . . .
That may sound to you as what obviously should be done, but I’ve experienced many who have not yet done that and others who finally got around to doing it -- but sadly were too late.
Your GOAL is simple: Figure out how to modify your product offering so a narrow slice of the larger market gets wildly excited about purchasing it. It does not require millions spent, it simply suggests you and your core team talk to customers, listen well, and adjust your plans.
BOTTOM LINE: We are entering a phase of the amazing startup world that is calling for cutbacks and the dreaded layoffs. Money is getting tighter. It’s now mandatory to alter your business plan so you can live on the cash you have for a lot longer. Pick the remaining staff so they can help you stay customer centric, finding out how to move your Sales up to what you need to get everyone excited – yes customers, but also bloggers, employees, suppliers, strategic partners and the people with investment money. Serial entrepreneurs know how to do that, it’s part of their unfair advantage. Make it yours.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!