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Iterations Through Feedback: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 5: Iterations Through Feedback

In my last post, we explored the benefits of a small start with a focus on providing value to the customer. This allows you to get your product or service into the hands of your customers quickly and begin collecting feedback. Today, we will discuss what type of feedback you are looking for and what to do with it once you have it.

Capturing Customer Feedback

Once you have the product into your customer’s hands, you will need to to create a system that allows you to learn from your customer. This will allow you to capture their feedback and make improvements to your business, product, or service. In every successful business, learning to meet customer needs is a top priority.

Find a way to hear stories about how your offering is helping to solve your customers’ problems. How is it meeting a need? How are they using it on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis? Ask the questions that will get people to tell you those stories. This is most effective through face-to-face interaction, where you can learn through what they say, and how they say it. If face-to-face isn’t an option, phone or video call is a solid second option. Make sure you are asking open ended questions that are allowing them to tell their stories about how your business is changing their life. 

Once you ask the questions, it is time to listen. Talking with a customer will only help if you are willing to listen to what they have to say and learn from it. Show love and respect to your customer by letting them do most of the talking. As you do this, you will be able to see if your assumptions are true and what changes need to be made.

  • Are they using your product or service in the way you anticipated?
  • Are they experiencing the values you hope your business reflects?
  • What is their experience in using your product or service?
Making Changes

After gathering feedback from your customers, use the information to start making any needed changes to your business, product, or service. As you go about this, be watchful of the tendency of pride to creep in. Making changes to your business is hard. Exercise humility as you identify issues that are repeatedly experienced by your customers. It will be tempting to assume customers don’t know what they are talking about or don’t fully understand the product or service. Dig deeper and figure out if the problems are common issues and be willing to solve them.

To continue to best serve and love your customers, your business will need to go through many iterations.

While changes are necessary, they don’t always have to be big changes. You may find that you had adequately assessed your customer’s needs and only had to make a few small changes. The most important thing is you should always be looking for ways to improve. How can you better serve your customer?

For any business to become sustainable and flourish, change is inevitable. This is the way God designed us and the world around us. He designed the plants, animals, and us to change as we grow. The same is true of your business. To continue to best serve and love your customers, your business will need to go through many iterations. If this ever stops, eventually your customer base will move on to something else and your business will cease to exist.

Planning for Growth

Now that you have a process in place to capture customer feedback in order to better serve your customer, you can also use this information to grow your business. Consider your customer base. Is it a small niche or does it have potential to grow exponentially? In other words, are you meeting a need or solving a problem that other groups of customers also experience? If you do have the potential to grow, think back to your own expectations and determine what you want your business to become. Are your business’s potential and your expectations aligned? It will be important for these to match up as you plan for the future.

As you move toward creating a sustainable business, careful planning will help you achieve this goal. Some of this will involve identifying your startup and ongoing costs, fixed and variable costs, gross profit, and break-even point. I won’t dive into these as there are plenty of resources out there, including CO.STARTERS, that can help you think through and easily figure out these numbers. Instead, I want to help you steward your resources by creating a plan to move you from where your business is to today to where you would like it to be.

Identifying Goals and Tasks

In the next week, take some time to consider the big picture. What big goals need to be accomplished over the next three months to get your business started or keep your business on the right track? Focus on the big items that need to happen and not the everyday tasks. Do you need to secure investment? Do you need to build a prototype? Do you need more customers? Do you need to get the word out about your business? Write down the top three to five big things you need to accomplish over the next 90 days. Break those down further into three to five steps that need to be accomplished at 30, 60, and 90 days. Then break those monthly steps down by weeks and days if you want to get more specific.

As you continue to grow and move forward, keep capturing customer feedback. This feedback allows you to go back to your goals and flexible business model to make adjustments as needed. As you get a clearer picture of what needs to be accomplished and when, it will help you to make adjustments. You will start to recognize what is missing, where you are weak, and what needs to change to to address these issues. Your flexible business model will allow you to easily make changes to your business, product, or service.

Conclusion and Next Steps…

It doesn’t matter if you envision your business being big or small, your customers needs will change at some point. For most businesses, it is likely that technology will advance and allow for improvements. Creating a system to allow you to change and adapt with your customers will allow you to continue to serve and love your customers for many years to come.

I hope this series has been beneficial as you look to or are in the midst of starting your business. We have discussed the importance of having a flexible business model, explored expectations, learned more about the customer, looked at the benefits of starting as small as possible, and finally, the importance of using customer feedback to make changes. As you embrace the opportunity God has provided to engage your community through entrepreneurship, I hope these lessons will help and encourage you along the way.

< Read Part 4: Starting Small

business-model-canvas

The CO.STARTERS Canvas tool goes a long way toward helping you test your assumptions and determine if your business model is worth pursuing, before you begin looking for ways to make it more efficient.

CO.STARTERS has not only created the startup canvas but has also developed curriculum around it, and has been training a growing community of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners globally since 2013.

Be equipped for the startup journey: take the CO.STARTERS Canvas tool with you!

Download the CO.STARTERS Canvas for free here.

 

stu-minshew

Stu Minshew is a facilitator for CO.STARTERS, a program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their passions into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. He is also co-founder of Mission Studio, created to help entrepreneurs explore the intersection of faith, business, and community.  You can connect with him online at ExpatStartup.co, where he helps expats across the globe achieve freedom of lifestyle and create positive social impact through entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur, Stu has previously started three other businesses, two located in East Africa and one in the United States. He mentors, trains, and consults with entrepreneurs and startups globally.