Choice is a funny thing.  Most choices come down to an easy decision…a Yes or No decision.  Do you want to go to McDonald’s today for lunch is an easy “No” decision for me.  Do you want to go get a juicy hand-made hamburger for lunch today is an easy “Yes” decision.  What the entrepreneur deals with on a day to day basis is the “Maybe” answer.  The “Maybe” answer is the answer that you just have to use you gut to decide.

As I have announced on here before, I am serving as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) for another company.  The company has been been through a large transition phase, and they are now having to really figure out what it is that they do, and where they are going.  One of the hardest decisions as a CEO is figuring out what path you want your company to take.  In this case, the path that they were on were leading them to a market that weren’t able to financially support the growth that they needed, and they had not come to that realization.  The answer in this case was an easy “No” for me.  The market didn’t have the ability or willingness to pay for the product.  

Do you really know who your customer is?  I’m going to say this clearly and concisely to you right here and right now….your customer is the person or organization that gives you money for the service that you are providing.  A lot of time, we look at the people who are using the product, but they aren’t the ones that are actually giving you money.  In the case of this company that I’m CTO for, the product had previously been focused on the people who would be interacting with the product, but it turns out that those people are not the ones paying money for it, so why would you primarily design the product for them?  The answer is that you wouldn’t.  You have to look at providing the best product and value for your actual customer, which in this case, is the person or company that is using this product to promote their brands.  Even though their touch point is small and they touch the product much less, they are the ones you should be focusing on.

In my personal/professional career in the case of Diner Connection, I have to focus on providing the best value to the restaurant, who is the one who is paying the invoices, and not you and me who are the people going to the restaurant to get a delicious meal. Many many times have I focused on the people who would benfit from Diner Connection, and that has never been the best route.  Both you and I would like to have the option of leaving the restrictive radius of those stupid buzzer pagers to go and shop or whatever, but neither one of us is going to give the restaurant more money just to have that luxury.  As the restaurant though, you want happy customers, and giving that ability is what makes you a better restaurant, and that’s what builds brand loyalty and brings repeat business. (If you are a restaurant owner or manager, you need to use Diner Connection).  Selling this to the restaurants and not the customer was an easy “Yes” decision.  As much as the people visiting the restaurants want this option, they may never be willing to pay for it.

As a business person, you have to market and sell to the people who are going to give you the money.

I give money to lots of people, just like you.  In starting a new software company, I seem to have a long list of things that I have to give money to in order to create my ideal company.  I give money to GoDaddy for my URL, I give money to Rackspace for a server.  I give money to Google so I can host my email and documents.  I give money to Dropbox so I can have all of my files when and where I need them.  I give money to Overnight Prints for business cards, and I give money to both Apple for a computer and to my Internet Provider so I can do what I do best.

But what happens before you launch a product?  This is where the “Maybe” decision comes into play.  I am creating these 5 products, and I am fairly confident that each of these products is a viable product with a viable market space.  Part of what an entrepreneur has to do is turn this “Maybe” decision into a “Yes” or “No” decision.  I am expecting failure.  I am expecting that one or more of the products will fail.  I don’t know which one, because each one of them have a significant amount of market validation on their own, but until you take an actual product to market, you never know for sure.

There is nothing wrong with spending money.  You just have to realize that when you are selling something that you are selling it to the people that get the most benefit out of it and are willing and able to give you money for what you are providing them.  It is worth spending money to turn a “Maybe” decision into a “Yes” or “No” decision.  Some of the best advise I have received is about what a business actually is….a business exists in order to figure out how to turn money into more money.

-g