Test. Test. Test.
Everything in business is a test. The good ol’ days – writing a business plan, pitching for investment, building out a product for the exact market stated in the business plan, launching the product through a large budget Launch strategy – those days are over.
As an entrepreneur, you should now consider yourself a scientist. Your job now is to run as many tests as possible, with the least amount of expenses to find mass adoption of your product. The tests should start in the ideation phase and shouldn’t ever end. The single worst thing you can do now as an entrepreneurial is have one idea and do everything you can think of to bring that specific idea to market. Start with a problem area and test ideas around it.
Test for consumer problems
What problems are present in which you can bring a solution to market? The best businesses solve a problem consumers have (or didn’t know they had but now realize life is better with your product). I heard the other day: You cannot just ask consumers what they want – they do not know. But if you observe and test them, their actions will lead you to holes that need to be filled. Inefficiencies will present themselves. Great entrepreneurs see these inefficiencies early.
Test for Product/Market fit
Once a problem is found and a solution has been built, the real work starts. Take it from me, your first attempt will not be the golden fit and you will have to re-align somethings. Call it pivot, call it whatever you want… it will happen. I don’t know why we are making such a big deal about pivoting, great entrepreneurs constantly pivot their ideas until they get the right market fit. Ask Edison, he pivoted like 5,000 times…
Test for Business model
How to make money is the question every company must face. I believe this is an area a startup must test early and often. This question should never have just one answer. Small tests on business model, payment options, advertising (I know… I know….) and other methods of creating revenue. It’s just a test. Do some A/B testing on a select group on users. Release a payment option to 1% of users and see what happens. You might just discover your next big innovation and create a new billion dollar industry.
Test for Perseverance
Ask any founder of a startup (still running) and they will have hours of talking on the subject of perseverance. The startup experience will test you and your perseverance. Just don’t give up. Do anything you can think of to put off the quitting of your vision. Read Delivering Happiness by Zappos Tony Hsieh to get an idea on Perseverance. I had no idea they went through the hell they did with their startup. You need to read this book if you are a founder of an early stage company not knowing if the future is bright or bleak.
Test for leadership
I laid out the importance of brand and company leadership expansively in my last post The One Thing That Separates Apple From Microsoft. Suffice it to say I think this is the most underrated, under-talked about, overlooked but most important aspect of building out your long term brand. You must answer he question: Why are consumers going to want to use my product? Believe it or not, it will be due to the leadership of the company CEO. Test your leadership skills early and often to find the right connection with general consumers.
Test for Funding
Investors don’t tell you this, but they are testing you at every stage of the game. First time you meet them at a “social event” they are testing your IQ and your EQ (your social intelligence) to see if you are someone they would even want to take an interest in. Next time when you meet for a pitch, they will test your concept and your perspective on the market. When they don’t call you back, they are testing your perseverance. When they give you money, they are testing your ability to turn X into 10X. If you pass that test, you will most likely be able to get money from them anytime thereafter.
I could go on… but I think you get the point. If you thought your tests were over after graduation, think again. They only have just begun. Embrace the test.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Canyon289
Fantastic reminders. A successful business solves problems for it’s customers, PERIOD. Sometimes you lose sight of that, and then you are headed for trouble. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Define your business model in terms of how you make money solving your customers’ problems. Great, great, great.
Also, the whole perseverance thing CANNOT be overstated. I used to be a quitter. I think that one of the main benefits of my business to me has been to teach me to never give up. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to quit–especially the first year. Thankfully, I had a wife who would kick me in the pants (figuratively) whenever I started talking that trash.
I appreciate this article.