Welcome back to IB UNIVERSITY, our free programme to help you build the skills you need to run your own business.
We’re continuing with our blog series by our founder Gerald Vanderpuye, sharing five things he wishes he knew before he set up his first company. This is number three, and we’ll be posting the rest over the coming weeks. So make sure you keep an eye out!
FIVE THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED MY BUSINESS
3. MY INITIAL IDEA IS ALWAYS WRONG!
Did you know that Airbnb’s original idea was to provide their customers airbeds so they could rent their living room to strangers and then make them breakfast in the morning? AirBedandBreakfast.
Well, that idea sucked. Business was terrible for two years. So eventually, they ditched their assumptions, left their original idea (and their egos) behind, and went out to talk to their customers.
That part is crucial.
Because too often, we stick to the same dumb idea we started with, even when our customers are telling us that it isn’t working.
And how do they tell you it isn’t working? They give you what I call “air pie”. They say ‘it’s great, we love it!’ but they don’t give you their time, money or even a referral.
I wish I knew this earlier because I spent too much time eating air pie when I first started out. I showed the product to many potential customers who said it was great, but they then avoided my calls and emails, gave me no money, and didn’t even make the introductions they promised! I should have recognised the air pie and accepted my idea was rubbish.
But that didn’t mean throwing the idea away and starting all over again. It meant identifying the problem I was trying to fix, holding onto why that problem was important or exciting to me, and figuring out how to change my idea to make it the perfect solution. And in order to do that, I had to talk to more potential customers, figuring out why the problem mattered to them, and what they cared about when fixing it.
It can be hard to let go of your original idea, but being open to changing it, evolving it, twisting it and shaping it is vital if you’re going to figure out a way to give your customers what they want. If you’re in a similar position, then I really recommend reading the book The Mom Test. It’s a two-hour read that will save you years of running around in circles.
To read more of Gerald’s writing, head to his blog, Virtue Collectors Club.
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