Choose your customers carefully
You’ll come across a lot of advice for founders. “Build something people want” and “make sure you are solving a problem” are almost cliche’s these days. And while I agree with broad strokes of the advice, I think there is a lot to consider before building a product and then trying to create a business around that product. (Even after it’s validated and you have paying customers.)
From my experience, the market-founder fit problem is a lot bigger than most realise and could be a major contributing factor to a lot of startups struggling to get going or failing altogether. Especially in the tech industry where you have a lot of burn out and the chances of being successful are not in your favour.
First, before anything else, I suggest having a hard look at the customers or the industry you are getting into and decide whether it’s a good fit for yourself. A simple, but vital step in my opinion. "Fix a problem, create a solution and charge money for it and you have yourself a business". But most don’t stop and think if this is a good fit for themselves, if you’d actually enjoy doing this for the foreseeable future.
If you don’t choose carefully, you can end up doing something you’re not enjoying, for people you don’t like, in an industry you don’t know.
What a nightmare! That’s NOT why you start a business. I’m pretty sure, no amount of money can solve this.
I don’t care who you are or how successful you’ve been. The reality is at some point you will go through a tough time in your business. Where you’ll question everything about yourself, your business, employees and customers. Maybe you’ll be unhappy with where the company is going or you’ll disagree with your co-founders. Or maybe the business just isn’t making enough money to survive and you have a few tough questions to ask.
Either way, when this happens (and trust me, at some point, it will ), you’ll need to make sure you’re at least enjoying the overall experience. It will get you through these tough times. Otherwise, the chances are you might not.
Why make an app for lawyers if you despise the profession? (no offence to any lawyers out there) What good can come from having to deal with the very people you don’t like, every single day. The money is not worth the pain.
I think a lot of the stress founders feel these days comes from getting themselves into this situation. Imagine if you start a business and things aren’t taking off. You then end up having to decide how to move forward but you don’t know the industry well enough. Loving your product and loving your clients are two separate things and it can be a very painful exercise trying double down on something you have no real interest in. Yes, you can learn, but shit it's going to be tough.
So how do you avoid this? I'm my opinion, the best way is to think before you dive in. Try to help people you like, in an industry you have experience in, know and/or identify with. Making things for these people will feel natural, fun and exciting. Going through the hard times won’t feel as tough because it’s more than just the money driving you, there will be a genuine connection between yourself and your clients, customers and the industry at a whole.
The best person to sell a product to a lawyer is a lawyer. Or someone in and around the law profession. It won’t feel like such a stretch or a chore.
Businesses fail for all sorts of reason, I get that, but if you don’t really like what you are doing then trying to push yourself through these tough times will seem like pure torture.
Founders need to enjoy the process as much as possible. So stack the chips in your favour. Chose your clients/customers carefully. Choose an industry or market that you connect with. (And yes you do have a choice) You will be glad you did.
Remember to be thoughtful and kind. The world needs it.
ps. I know there are always exceptions to every rule and there are plenty of founders who are successful in an industry they knew nothing about. But from my experience, those are the exceptions and not the rule. If you are one of those founders, please reach out and let me know. I’d love to know how you did it. I don’t pretend to know it all and I’m happy to learn. I look forward to chatting.