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[Blind Entrepreneurship] Design and sell the right product before spending too much on the wrong one

By November 15, 2019June 19th, 2020No Comments

I had the opportunity to talk about building the right product with Johnathan Gryzbowski on his podcast Blind Entrepreneurship.

Listen to the podcast episode here.

[2:37] My dad was an engineer, and he insisted that I know how to do things that not all ladies are expected to know. I tell the story of my car breaking down in South Africa during the World Cup in 2010. My worst fear at the time was getting stranded on the side of the road, and lo and behold, that is exactly what happened. 

[7:24] What does the right product mean? The popular startup blueprint says to find a problem, stub out a solution, build an MVP, then go find product-market fit. That leaves a lot of people to building a lot of product before ever getting customer feedback.

[8:35] It’s an ego problem. The problem lies in 1) believing that enough other people experience the same problem as us and 2) we’re the customer – the way we build the solution will work for other people 3) if we build it, they will come

And it’s this same ego that is afraid of any negative feedback. So we continue to build, build, build.

[10:34] No product is ever finished until people are actually using it. To quote Seth Godin, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Figure out who you are serving and then you can find the solutions for them.

[11:20] How do you gather and organize user feedback? The reality is that customer research is the most time-intensive piece. The #1 challenge that professional Product Managers face is customer feedback – knowing who to talk to, what questions to ask, and which feedback to listen to.

I suggest gathering feedback by 1) talking to strangers – your friends & family will support you no matter what so that can be misleading 2) talking less than they talk – spend more time listening 3) documenting your conversations by consistently tracking your questions and answers.

[15:08] Filter your feedback. My general rule is: If 1 person says something, it is an anecdote. If 2 people say something, it is a coincidence. If 3 people say something, it’s a theme that you can act on.

Who the feedback is coming from is also important. The sources of your feedback should be consistent personas and should be your customers.

[16:14] Don’t get sidetracked by investor opinions. An investor or advisor will never be your customer. Listening to an investor’s opinion can drive entrepreneurs crazy. Remember, 90% of startups fail, so investors can be wrong.

[17:14] Are non-technical entrepreneurs more willing to listen? The short answer is: no. Everyone’s ego believes that they represent the customer. Founders are often too deep into the product.

[20:54] Implement and use user personas. Unfortunately, these are rarely incorporated by product teams. To get these on the product team’s radar, I suggest 1) including these personas in every new employee’s onboarding guide 2) bringing these personas to product meetings.

It’s important to get personal conjecture out of the way and focus on your primary persona. To learn more about how random use cases and personal conjecture can derail product teams, check out this video.

[23:27] What’s the difference between a technical and a non-technical founder’s experience? For a technical founder, building an MVP is so easy for them. As a result, they can get to the stage of having a full-blown product easier, faster, and cheaper. And once there, they don’t want to adjust it.

A non-technical founder has to do a lot more research and put a lot more money into building something. They have more of an opportunity to fix their idea before getting stuck with the product they have built.

[24:33] Do you need funding to conduct customer research? You do not need funding from investors or your own pocket to gather feedback. Steve Blank, the author of The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, introduces the concept of the early-evangelist. The early-evangelist is your product’s biggest fan and supporter. They use your early, half-built product and are excited to do so.

The early-evangelist has the problem you want to solve, knows that they have the problem, and is looking for a solution. To find your early-evangelist, you have to do a lot of customer discovery research. You don’t even need a solution to do that research.

[27:25] What is it like working with an entrepreneur vs. a corporation? Corporations are very similar to technical founders in that they often have ample resources so they risk heading too far down the product development path. They commonly avoid the ‘hard people part’. Over 50% of large IT projects in corporations fail.

It all comes down to… we, as people, are really bad at solving problems because our own egos get in the way.

[31:50] How do you manage ego? I suggest journaling, mindfulness, and meditation as well as recognizing that failure is a lesson in entrepreneurship. I believe that leaders are learners.

If you stick it out long enough, you will come to a reckoning with your ego.

“There’s no better slice of humble pie than to create something and have no one use it.” – Johnathan Gryzbowski

Entrepreneurship does take ego to get started, but you need to balance that in order to get the feedback that you need.

[35:21] I don’t want anyone to feel stuck for too long. Head to www.lindsayt.com to book a 45-minute strategy call with me. We dive into the challenges you are facing right now and how to get around them.

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