Remember the last commercial, movie, show or any channel that portrays a successful entrepreneur. Do you find a common theme? The first thing that comes to mind is someone boarding a plane, shaking hands or signing papers. A friend recently asked me, why would smart business owners waste thousands of dollars to accomplish things they could have done over a phone call or email? Because a good product is not enough to build a successful startup.
Think of your favorite app or tool and the problem it solves. Before this product, how did you or people before you solve this problem? What technology did is take care of old jobs with faster, cheaper and better solutions. From a business standpoint, nothing has changed. A human being creates, maintains and powers those technology enabled solutions. Therefore, business is still and will always be about human relationships.
One of the common mistakes entrepreneurs make is assume startup success is only about the product when the reality is, a new product is like a college degree which takes time and money but eventually, every committed student gets one. Just like degrees, good products don’t guarantee success in business. What makes the biggest influence in your ability to build a successful career and business is human interaction and relationships.
In startups, this starts at the idea stage. Meeting with key stakeholders like future customers, potential investors, mentors, partners and team members is your first step to doing business the right way. Here are three reasons why.
In its simplest form, business is about exchanging value. When you spend months building a product based on hypotheses, you risk creating a solution customers don’t want or need. In this case, forcing unwanted products into customers’ lives adds no value to what they want to accomplish. It’s a waste of time for them and you. But having a conversation about their struggles and how you can solve their problems is a value-add meeting. Best of all, they’ll help you build a product they need and will pay for.
This first productive meeting is your opportunity to build a personal relationship with future buyers. If you are looking to pre-sell your idea, build case studies or get referred to more leads, this is your second opportunity to do business the right way just by getting out of the building to shake people’s hands and build relationships.
When Apoorva Mehta, founder of the grocery delivery startup Instacart, ran out of options to get accepted into Y-Combinator, he took his efforts offline. He surprised YC partners with an Instacart delivery to their office. Because of this, they invited him to speak in-person and accepted him into the program shortly after. That was the first time in the history of YC they accepted a startup two months late.
The lesson learned is, if you want to get something done, go get it. The worst that can happen is getting an honest and upfront rejection so you can move on with other things. When was the last time you waited months for an important email or phone call just to hear a No?
We live in a world dominated by technology. You can virtually start, grow, fund and sell your business without even meeting a single stakeholder like your customers, investors and acquirer. This is disruption in its purest form and it’s all thanks to technology.
With this unprecedented degree of efficiency, human interaction in business is no longer a requirement. Today, it’s more like a competitive edge. The easiest way to differentiate yourself and your business from the rest is by using technology to facilitate human interaction, not replace it.