CEO Today is a monthly magazine with news, insight and features specifically aimed at CEO's in the global business marketplace.

Don’t Fall in Love with your Robot

When building a new product or business, it’s all too easy to feel like it’s your baby. Blinded by the love for their carefully crafted creation, entrepreneurs often become too involved in the creative process and lose sight of the end goal – serving their customers.

For your creation to be a success, you need to keep customers front of mind. I learnt this the hard way. Having launched an e-gaming business called Geonomics with my brother, we lost sight of our customer needs and our winning streak came to an abrupt end. While this was a hard blow to take, I used it as a learning experience and banked it for the next step in my career. Here’s what I learnt along the way.


Keep your audience front and centre

For your business to be a success you really need to keep your finger on the pulse to find out what frustrates your target market and how your idea can help. You might create something that looks great and harnesses some impressive tech, but if it doesn’t solve your target market’s problem it’s going to fall flat.

Don’t just act on a hunch – make sure you research your target market inside out. Sourcing your customer’s feedback is also key: live data is the most powerful source for learning. You should also check for patterns in user behaviour, ask them questions directly and look to build ongoing relationships with them. Don’t lose sight of your audience – these are the people who inspired you to start your business in the first place so be sure to develop a product that they want to use.


Perfection kills

Realistically, you’re not going to create the perfect product or service straight away. So instead, work to get a live product out as soon as possible. That way, you can address any issues before they get out of hand, and you can start to dominate that niche before your competitors do.

The key here is to start small and test often: identify your early adopters, listen to feedback, adjust your offering and expand your portfolio to capture more of your target audience. Once you have this live data, act on it. Don’t be put off by early setbacks – embrace them as a valuable opportunity to refocus and figure out where your ultimate sweet spot lies.


Don’t rest on your laurels

While the launch might feel like the culmination of all your hard work, it’s just the beginning. To build on initial traction, you need to keep working on your offering by continuously tweaking and perfecting your product.

A great example of this approach comes from Amazon. It started off as an online bookseller and then continued to expand and cater for underserved markets. It is now the dominant e-commerce site across most of the world. For your business, post-launch, think of ways to grow – are there other markets and customer segments you could be tapping in to, or is there regional, national or global potential?


Power of investor relations

Investors aren’t just your funding lifeline. To have a meaningful relationship that you truly benefit from, investors need to be a great fit for your business. The right strategy and experience can turbo charge your company’s growth.

The best investors will leave decisions to you and respect your authority as CEO, but they’re also not afraid to speak their minds and voice thoughts and concerns. Compatibility is vital to your relationship with your investor – starting a business is a long journey, so you need to be on the same page from the get-go. They also need to be able to empathise with your journey and have a proven track record, so do your research before jumping at the highest offer.



Perils of overfunding

The assumption is that the more funding a start-up secures, the better it will do. But that isn’t the case – it’s the right investment secured at the right time, spent on the right things, that is crucial to a start-up’s growth.

Lots of funding can make a business lazy and ill-disciplined. Business priorities fall by the wayside and its leaders are easily distracted by new devices and markets. Discipline with money is key – keep a meticulous record of everything that comes in and out and prioritise business-critical expenditure. That way you can keep on top of cash flow and anticipate problems before they arise.

When starting a business, it’s easy and common to get distracted dreaming up endless possibilities. Choosing the right investor and level of investment, while keeping your customer front and centre will keep your start-up on track for success. If they’re not receptive to an element of your offering, don’t be too rigid in your vision – be adaptable. As the old adage goes, the customer is always right.


James Oakes, Director

Zeal Investments

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