Seeking Speedy Startup Success…Find Customers!

The Fastest Path to Success is Straightforward (and Mostly Hidden)!

Over the years I have watched, mentored, invested, and coached hundreds of entrepreneurs as they started and grew their businesses. During that time I came to the realization that entrepreneurs work very hard to be successful, but often are oblivious to the fastest track to success.

Ironically the fast track is not something that is inherently known; instead it is learned through the many trials and errors and is essentially a hidden badge of honor for serial entrepreneurs. Additionally the fast track does not guarantee success, however it does provide the clarity that leads to revenues and scalable growth. Enabling entrepreneurs to know how to achieve greater outcomes, more efficiently, and with less effort. The fast track is a straightforward 3-step process:

1) Probe for Customers
2) Build the Solution & Streamline Operations
3) Find Distribution

1) Probe for Customers. Regardless of the company that you are planning to start (or have started), the most important asset any business requires is customers to buy their products or services. Often entrepreneurs leave finding customers as a final step in the startup process, while instead focusing on more “important” tasks like prototyping the product or service, launching a website, creating a logo and brand, creating marketing materials, etc. Ironically entrepreneurs fail realize that until they have customers to pay money for a service they haven’t started a business (a.k.a. a money making venture), instead they only started a hobby (a.k.a. an expensive passion).

So the fastest way to get customers is to probe for them. Simply ask 30 people you don’t know to rate your business idea/concept, then ask how much they would pay for it, and then most importantly ask them for a down payment. This exercise produces surprisingly sober results, and will provide the exact feedback needed to understand what potential customers want and how to get their business. Interestingly most reading this post probably don’t think this works in practice, though I will say that in my last 9 companies I sold the solutions before I had even built it. Further this approach allowed me to identify the solution (product or service) that was desired and how to build it to achieve maximum revenue potential.

2) Build the Solution & Streamline Operations.
Once you have customers willing to buy your product or service, then it is time to build it. Don’t worry about the first iteration, they always suck compared to the later ones. All that is important early on is that it meets the customers needs and expectations who are going to pay you…THAT IS IT.

Once you are able to get 20-30 customers, then it is time to streamline the operations, meaning document (on paper or in Microsoft word) the process for producing the solution and delivering it to the customer. As seemingly worthless as this activity sounds, it will actually allow others to know how to operate and support customers your way. Enabling an entrepreneur to coast through a stage of growth that stunts or even fails many businesses.



3) Find Distribution.
Now it is time to find more customers, which will grow the business and the entrepreneur’s wealth. At this point customers are identified and fulfilling their needs is operationally sound, so now it is time to fill the sales pipeline to exponentially grow the business. (For established businesses consider this step and the two previous for each product line.) To identify points of distribution or partners, ask or watch when customers realize they have a need for the business’s solution. For this precursory moment, which creates the “Ah-Ha” for your solution will lead you to the points and partners who can provide you a pipeline of customers.

For example, a close friend of mine Travis Bowring owns Ripp’n’Finish, a refinishing company for hardwood floors. When seeking a distribution pipeline he realized polled his customers and realized that the majority of them were refinishing their floors before selling or after buying a house. Thus Travis reached out to real estate agents to be a potential provider for their clients AND bought Google Adwords and Facebook ads focused towards potential customers getting ready to move. The real estate agents created a massive referral pipeline and the social media ads attracted another pipeline. Thus by understanding what led his customers to him, Travis was able to establish distribution pipelines that have since multiplied his business!

Those entrepreneurs who are methodical and focused on these steps early on, significantly increase their outcomes and startup successes!