After all, satisfied customers equals more business. So you should always listen to your customers, and make sure they're happy, right?
Well, not exactly. As Guy Kawasaki notes in his book Wise Guy: Lessons For A Life, customers will tell you what they want, but not what they need. And if you're trying to revolutionize the industry with your product, the only way you can do this is to ignore what your customers tell you, and push forward relentlessly.
Your job as an entrepreneur? Think several steps ahead.
Here's an example that Kawasaki mentions in his book: if you asked an Apple customer in the 1980s what they wanted, they would have said a better, faster and cheaper Apple II. No one would have asked for a Mac.
But as an entrepreneur, your job is to look at the big picture, and think several steps ahead. That was exactly what Steve Jobs did -- he ignored all the naysayers and "experts" who told him he was wrong, and took what his customers said with a grain of salt.
In pushing past all that, Steve Jobs led Apple to come up with the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and truly revolutionized the consumer tech industry.
The moral of the story: dig deep in everything you do.
What if you're just aiming to get your startup profitable, and your goal isn't to change the world with your product? Well, you can still learn from the larger lesson here -- which is to dig deep, instead of taking things at face value.
Applying this to the previous example: when Steve Jobs ignored what Apple customers were asking for to work on the Macintosh, he was digging deep. This allowed him to create a product that was unlike any other -- one that brought amazing value to his consumers' lives.
Product development aside, you can dig deep when it comes to just about any aspect of your business. Let's talk about hiring, for instance, which is a challenge that many entrepreneurs struggle with.
Coming from the home service industry, I know a ton of business owners who say that it's impossible to hire good technicians. The common complaint is that technicians are either lazy or bad at selling, or they don't follow procedures.
Now, these business owners are assuming that, firstly, that's just the way things are, and secondly, there's nothing they can do to fix this. But when I dig deeper and ask them questions about their work environment and how they get things done, I usually discover that the problem lies in either their business culture or their processes.
For instance, some of these business owners don't use technology to build effective systems. And when it comes to hiring, most of these guys simply list their job openings on miscellaneous websites, and interview the best candidates. They don't have a filtering process to separate the bad apples from the good ones, nor do they put their candidates through some sort of test to make sure they're truly capable workers.
Now, looking at it this way, it's obvious that what these business owners need is not better employees, but better processes and culture.
It's easy to accept and be content with the status quo, but take it from me, the key to business success lies in digging deep. Keep asking those "whys" and you'll be on the right track!