Start and End with Your Customer

Prior to joining Range Ventures as an investor, I worked as an GTM operator across various startups, fractional COO/CXO, and as an advisor to scaling businesses- all giving me exposure to businesses at the point of inception through massive scale. While in these roles and especially during my time leading Customer Success at Gusto, I saw thousands of businesses across various sectors that all had one thing in common- they were building companies that solve real problems for their customers.

As I have transitioned from an operating role to an investing role, I have been shocked at how many founders I have met that have skipped the most critical step in company building- creating a product that solves a real problem for customers they know deeply. Many companies seem to have forgotten the age-old advice to put the customer first. They’re building companies around “solutions” for non-existent problems.

We have all seen this before and even companies like Google, despite their notoriety, has failed miserably at launching new businesses. For example, Google+ failed to resonate with users. It was designed as a competitor to Facebook, but it didn’t sufficiently differentiate itself or offer new value to users. The platform’s interface was complicated and it didn’t address any unique user needs that weren’t already met by existing social networks. Despite Google’s attempts to integrate it with its other popular services, users didn’t see a compelling reason to switch from other platforms to Google+ and was shut down in 2019.

Regardless of where you are in your startup journey, maintaining a customer-centric approach should be at the heart of all your operations. There’s no business without customers.

In one of my favorite books, “The Mom Test,” Rob Fitzpatrick outlines three key principles for obtaining valuable customer feedback that forces you to anchor your market research in a way that doesnt bias or influence the conversation/feedback you receive, ultimately helping you build a product customers need.

🗣 Discuss their life, not your idea. This allows you to understand their needs and perspective instead of receiving vague or polite feedback about your idea.
Ask for specifics in the past, not generics or opinions about the future. This provides you with concrete facts about their behavior, not speculative or hypothetical responses.
🎧 Speak less, listen more. This enables you to collect maximum information from your customers rather than imposing your thoughts on them.

Stay tuned for part 2, how to maintain a customer-centric approach as you scale.