Entrepreneur as Detective

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Customer Development

Exploration and discovery constitute significant activities for entrepreneurs. There are various metaphors–for example entrepreneur as researcher, entrepreneur as scientist, entrepreneur as journalist–this post uses entrepreneur as detective as a metaphor.

Entrepreneur as Detective

Dark Streets by Josh Haroldson: Entrepreneur as DetectiveNeither Tarnished Nor Afraid

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
Raymond Chandler in “Simple Art of Murder

Entrepreneurs may fail many times but that does not mean they are tarnished if they have acted with integrity. The ability to bounce back and continue unafraid of failure–while remaining mindful of it as a possibility, is essential to the discovery of a viable business.

Instinctively Honorable

“He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it.”
Raymond Chandler in “Simple Art of Murder

A discovery driven sales process ends with not only a successful deal where money changes hands but one where the customer becomes a reference, an advocate for the product and the company. That requires that the entrepreneur persevere and act with integrity: making good on commitments  and honoring not only the letter but the spirit of the agreement.

A Common Man Who Can Go Among Common People

“He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job.”
Raymond Chandler in “Simple Art of Murder

The key to customer discovery is to understand people and their needs. And while it never hurts to talk to executives to make sure you are working on a critical business issue you must also understand the needs of the people “in the trenches” who will use your product on a day to day basis if you hope to see not only effective production deployment but a reference. And when I say talk I don’t mean just make a sales pitch or ask questions but listen and observe and adjust.

Binoculars by Edith SotoEntrepreneurs Search for a Hidden Truth

“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.”
Raymond Chandler in “Simple Art of Murder

Even if you have made a technical breakthrough–discovered a hidden scientific truth–you will need to understand what will be required to get firms to adopt it and pay for it. And there are often incorrect assumptions masking the true path to successful use (Josh Billings offers some of the best advice on navigating the entrepreneurial landscape: “It’s not the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we know that aren’t so.”) Even if your product’s specifications outperform the incumbent’s offering, there will still be obstacles you will need to manage in getting people to change their behavior.

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