As I grow older I have gained a full appreciation for Laurie Anderson’s observation: “When my father died it was like a whole library had burned down.” It’s now 97 months since my father’s death from a heart attack on October 23, 2007 and I still feel the loss.
Unreasonable entrepreneur is almost redundant. By definition entrepreneurs want to change the status quo, offering better products and services as substitutes for established and successful ones. This often requires an unreasonable amount of effort and persistence, sometimes to the point of stubbornness, in the face of not only opposition but also a concentrated lack of interest. The lukewarm response initially promises adoption until we realize it was the easiest way to get us to shut up. The challenge is not to become stubborn and parochial but to continue appreciate the realities of your prospect’s situation.
Customer Discovery interviews are key to discovering whether or not a market exists for your product or service and the skills and questions you hone in the early market will continue to be refined as you scale. This month we focus on how to start them, techniques for cultivating your curiosity so that you learn as much as possible, and some suggestions for how to review and organize your findings on an ongoing basis.
I started this blog in October of 2006–3 years after incorporating SKMurphy, Inc. in August of 2003–so this month represents the start of my tenth year of blogging. In the last nine years I have published 1552 posts, which total 871,535 words of writing or the rough equivalent of a dozen novels. What follows are some lessons learned from 9 years of blogging.
In the last decade I have switched to drinking tea from coffee. I came across a neat process description for making tea by George Orwell in “A Nice Cup Of Tea” that mirrored what I do–except for adding milk or cream to my tea. I was struck by how often we think we have come up with an approach that we believe is rare or unique and discover a similar approach described that’s decades or centuries old.
Adeo Ressi (@adeoressi) is a serial entrepreneur and currently CEO and cofounder of the Founder Institute. At Startupfest 2015, he gave a keynote with the theme: “What you do with your startup is your life’s work, ideally your destiny, and you don’t pivot on the purpose of your life.” Here are four key excerpts from his talk with some additional thoughts for bootstrappers.
Randy Cadieux, founder of V-Speed LLC, started to post some interesting articles in the Lean Startup Circle Group on LinkedIn in June of this year, in particular his “Working on the Edge of Failure.” High reliability organizations have a lot to teach startups so I decided to reach out to him to compare notes. This led to some great conversations and a recorded sessions that we have transcribed into this edited transcript–with some hyperlinks added for context.
You can follow @skmurphy to get these quotes for entrepreneurs hot off the mojo wire or wait until they are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.
SKMurphy September 2015 Newsletter
This blog post summarizes our September newsletter, you can subscribe to the monthly SKMurphy newsletter using the form at the right
When and How to Seek Investment
This month’s issue addresses when and how to make the transition from bootstrapping to seeking investment. I am not against looking for investment when you have a business that both merits and needs investment to grow. Where entrepreneurs often waste time is looking for early validation from investors instead of prospects A second mistake they make is not understanding the return on investment expectations the investor has: at the end of the day a bona fide investor is not interested in control but very interested in how, when, and how much you pay them back.
I used to think it was the advice I offered that provided the highest value to clients and friends. I talk to a number of people in different or challenging situations. Recently I have come to appreciate that it’s when I focus and listen to someone explain their situation, asking them questions from a caring perspective to help clarify their understanding, that I often provide the most value.
I recently did an in depth interview with Jen Berkley Jackson of The Insight Advantage on primary research tools. Jen works with companies to help them make sure that they understand their customers better than any competitor or potential competitor. Her firm performs primary research for clients, using a variety of tools to gather information from customers, prospective customers, and the general market. Because of her considerable experience with a range of primary research tools I took this as an opportunity to explore the spectrum approaches that are available.
In Chapter 9 of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig goes into an extended explanation of the Scientific Method using the metaphor of motorcycle repair. He stresses the value of an experiment log, explaining how to organize it so that you don’t become lost in exploring for solutions to a problem. I have excerpted it below and intermixed some commentary about applying it to early market exploring and debugging new product introduction problems.
Mark Twain writes about learning his daughter has died unexpectedly from meningitis in chapter 6 of his autobiography. He offers an analogy to a house burning down causing an overwhelming sense of loss that takes years to process.
Fabrizio Caramagna curated “The New Italian Aphorists” in 2013, selected content from material submitted to three (2008,2010, and 2012) “Aphorism International Prize – Torino in Sintesi” Festivals. He also included a selection of his own aphorisms; I have included five below that I thought entrepreneurs would find useful.
Joseph Mancuso‘s “How to Start, Finance, and Manage Your Own Small Business” contains an “Entrepreneur’s Quiz” a self-assessment for entrepreneurs. His explanation for the reasons behind some of the questions includes the following nuggets:
This post has been percolating for two years, it’s a request to folks working on networking, social networks, and other technologies to consider the implications of their actions. My thesis is that the combination of advertising driven firms that sell their audience as the product and efforts to prevent another 9-11 have combined to create a more pervasive surveillance state than we could have imagined a decade go, but without any increase in security. Like Number 6 after his escape from the Village in “The Prisoner” we have all relocated to the panopticon. Be mindful of what you are working on so that you don’t contribute unintentionally.
After every Great Demo! workshop we follow up with every participant to learn
- What results have you observed from applying the Great Demo! method so far?
- Do you have any success stories to report or share?
- Are there any questions you’d like to have addressed regarding the methods or concepts? Have you encountered situations where you’d like additional help or recommendations?
Abigail Miller, a Pre-Sales IT Consultant with Agfa Healthcare, a workshop in May of 2015 and wrote this email in reply: