The Mature Entrepreneur – Part III

(This post is the result of a collaboration between Amy Shelton and Nicole Radziwill. Image Credit: Doug Buckley of Hyperactive Multimedia at

In our first post on this topic, we talked about the thirty-something entrepreneur who, after building a career working for others, is now ready to be her own boss. In our second post, we talked about possible attributes of a mature entrepreneur (perhaps you are an A player?) and why such individuals might find themselves doing a start-up. From a business point of view, both of the previous posts were focused inward, that is, they explore the qualities of the people behind a start-up.

But how does your customer benefit from your creativity, and your freedom to explore big ideas? Face it – a business will not last long without customers. Ultimately all your work and energy must create value for your customer. And you’ve got so much energy to make your great idea fly! So share that energy with your customers.  Listen to and apply customer feedback. Co-create a great future together.

Probably, the first step you took on your journey into entrepreneurship was to identify a need. In fact, many start-ups spring up because a founder either personally has a need, or knows someone who needs a particular product or service. The “A player” that’s typically at the helm of a start-up will take that identified need — and immediately start brainstorming ways to meet it. “A players” have “the room to explore hypotheses and make mistakes” within the environment of a start-up. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who marry creativity and innovation with customer desire.

But how do you actually listen to them? What can the magic of your entrepreneurial environment do for your customer, in a practical way?

One actionable way to leverage this freedom is to employ the Lead User process pioneered by 3M. How do you do it? Just pick a group of 3-5 users who definitely need your stuff – you might be one of these users, or already know them – and then let them dictate how your product or service will satisfy their needs! It’s that easy. Keep them with you as trusted advisors throughout the development process.

Future posts will explore creative ways to make “listening to your customer” an actionable task. They’re already out there talking, on Twitter, and Facebook, and discussion boards… what else can you do to hear them, and interact with them, and work together constructively?

A start-up can excel where others have failed. Listen to the needs of your customers. Think creatively. Take risks. Create some magic. Make your customers happy.

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