Every once in a while, an article writes itself. Or, as a keen observer of the media, you find a story so on-point, so perfect that you merely need to frame it for it to make sense for your audience. I found a story in our local newspaper over the weekend, and immediately ripped it out. I knew it would be a great opportunity to expound on, here and elsewhere.
The article is nominally about a new service in Raleigh, NC called Get Spiffy. Get Spiffy offers to come to your location and clean and wax your car. This doesn't sound all that interesting until you notice who is behind the company. Scot Wingo is the guy behind Get Spiffy, and he's important because he has led other entrepreneurial companies to great heights. It's worth paying attention when he talks, and he makes a point that is important for entrepreneurs and innovators.
In the interview Scot is asked about his approach for launching and selling businesses. His response: "It's surprisingly simple. It's finding a customer pain and following that, getting customers, listening to them and scaling up from there".
Starting with a pain or need
You've heard this a million times but it bears repeating: start with the customer in mind. But more than that, start with the customers' need in mind. Understand their challenges and pains before creating a full fledged product or solution. Trial your initial solution, listen to the feedback you get from customers and then scale your solution. Far too often entrepreneurs and innovators acknowledge the customer but then attempt to fit the customer and their circumstances to solutions they've already created, shaping the "need" to fit a pre-ordained solution or product. This rarely works.
In these few sentences, Scot describes the importance of finding a customer pain, addressing it, delivering a minimum viable solution and getting feedback, then scaling up. That's innovation, agile and lean startup all in one simple formula.
In the very next paragraph Scot adds one more jewel of an idea: focus. Please take note of what he says about focus. Innovators and entrepreneurs are constantly adding new features, new capabilities, new services and taking on far more scope than they can reasonably address. Whether you are building your first company or innovating your first product, focus is also key to success. As he says "Picking the right thing and doing it as awesome as you can is important".
So the prevailing message is: start with empathy for the customer and their needs, and stay focused on that need and solution as long as you possibly can. This is good advice generally, but invaluable to innovators and entrepreneurs.