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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.  Read more

Starting Small: 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 4: Starting Small

In my last post, I focused on the importance of living out your Kingdom values by loving and serving your customers. This allows you to sustain and grow your customer base as you deepen your relationship with those you serve. However, before you can get customers, you need a product or service for them to buy. The sooner you can get your product or service to them, the closer you are to making money and creating a sustainable business.

Dream Big, Start Small, Grow Smartly

Earlier in this series, in the post titled It Starts With You, I talked about the big dreams that motivate and inspire us. Often times our big dreams cause us to do too much or take on too much too fast. This can be overwhelming and result in a failure to do anything well. Or, it can put a large financial burden on our business too quickly. Neither of these is helpful as you are seeking to create sustainability.

Dream big, but start small.

To be good stewards of what God has given you, I encourage you to find the quickest and easiest way to get your product or service in front of your customer, while continuing to communicate the unique benefit you offer. This means you may not be able to offer everything you envision to your customer at first. By simplifying your long term vision to focus on the first step in achieving your dream, you will define a way forward that looks much more manageable. This allows you to serve your customer NOW, instead of someday, and helps you make the customer an important part your startup journey.  Read more

Understanding Your Customer: 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 3: Understanding Your Customer

As a current or future business owner, your customer is critical to your success. While we may believe that our customer exists to buy our products or service, the reality is that we exist to serve our customers. I appreciate how CO.STARTERS intensely focuses on knowing and serving your customer. This customer-centric view aligns with Christ-honoring Kingdom values. Jesus calls us to love, care for, and serve our neighbor, or customers, in the same manner that we desire to be served. In order to serve our customers well, keep them coming back, and increasing in number, we must deeply listen to and understand their needs and desires.

What’s inside your customer?

Traditional customer research focuses on demographics including age, gender, location, income, etc. While these are important, it is vital to understand the the factors that lie beneath the surface. What are their interests, passions, skills, beliefs, and values? For example, if you have a product or service for dog lovers, your customer will cover a wide-range of demographics, but it is important to realize they share a common trait, a love for dogs.  Read more

Starting Lean: Soft Launches Help Avoid Hard Landings

by Mike Baer

Adapted from material developed for a Third Path Initiative training module.

A very common story among highly excited entrepreneurs goes something like this: get a great idea, build the product, go whole hog to market, wait and lose a lot of money. It’s equivalent to the leadership anti-mantra “ready, fire, aim.” I call this the “emotional/entrepreneur syndrome” where any action is preferred to analysis and patience.

Contrast that with a less common but much wiser approach. Get an idea, test the idea, check out the landscape, build a sufficient product to try out, go lightly to market, listen, and adjust. Boring? Not at all…unless you just get off on failure.

This approach has been called many things over the years. It’s not new. Soft opening. Soft launch. Lean startup. Trial and error. Jesus put it this way:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him… – Luke 14:28-29, ESV

Out of context, I admit but true nonetheless. Take your time and do it right.

Here are the steps I’d use if I was doing another startup. After my initial ideation, testing the market, and market research, I’d: Read more

5 Lessons Learned About Developing Products and Finding a Market

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

Start with “Why”

If I could ask you to understand anything about this, I would encourage you to understand the “why.” Motives determine outcome. If the company motives don’t line up with solid business principles, undergirded by correct biblical understanding; your hard work may never get past a good read by the intended audience. It could end up in a desk drawer. Or worse, it could alienate an entire culture, damaging years of relationship building. And please, whatever you do…don’t spiritualize motives. Just because we choose to spiritualize a motive does not justify it in God’s eyes. Nor does it guarantee successful execution. The sage advice of noted author and TED speaker Simon Sinek provides great clarity on the reason we want to start with the “why.”

Lesson Learned #1 – Ask lots of bad questions which lead to really good questions, and Google comes in handy at this point.

Get your Planning Head on Straight

Once you have clarity and understanding on the “why”, you are better equipped to move forward with the “what and how.” The “what and how” has everything to do with proper planning, researching, testing and… fingers-crossed… implementation. It’s important to know, as one mentor previously mentioned, when to set the planning aside to start testing assumptions. Read more

Business Planning and Market Research for a BAM Company

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

The basic idea of a business plan is to help you think through all of the different issues that will make a strategic difference to your proposed business. There are literally hundreds of issues to think about and that can be daunting. The business plan helps you structure your thoughts, assess the risks and opportunities and, perhaps most significantly, helps you see what you still need to research and learn.

 I’ll try to address some of the most significant issues for a cross-cultural BAM startup.

 Almost everything in a business starts with the market:  Read more

Getting Started with Market Research

Once a month, our panel of mentors answer your practical business questions. Send us your questions!

 

Dear BAM Mentor,

I’m developing a business plan for a BAM company. What are some ideas, tips or resources you would suggest as I conduct market research and analysis, especially in a BAM setting?

~ Anticipating Analysis

Dear Anticipating,

The question of market research comes up constantly and is both a very important part of a business plan and at the same time can be a big waste of time. Let me explain.

If you are doing a business plan to guide your launch and actions, then all you really need is to figure out a few basic things:

1. Who else does what you plan to do?

2. In what ways are you better, faster, cheaper, easier to access, etc.?

3. What price point will your potential customers accept? What do your competitors charge?

4. Where, how, when will you distribute your product/service? Does it fit with where, how, when people want to buy?

5. How many potential customers are there? How many of them will you be able to convert into actual customers?

6. What laws, taxes, licenses, etc. exist that will affect your business?

Beyond these few things much more research will not give you ROI. So don’t do it. Read more