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Hello. In the last couple of decades, from our experience coaching students in their start-up ventures, we have learned a few lessons about what are the real, troubling questions that entrepreneurs have faced.
The first question is rather existential. Why should we (as a company) exist? Why should our customers pay attention to us? Is there something that we really have to offer to them? How, in essence, do we make their lives, in their house, in their everyday life, in their business, better? And, adjacent to that, is the question of sustainability. We always have to remember that our price, of course, has to be higher than our cost but, in order to be sustainable, our price also has to be lower than the value of the offer we make to our customers. They (the customers) should also economize and make a profit from our offer.
This means that we have to think from our customer’s side, we have to step into their shoes. We have to think hard about who they are and, especially, who our first customers are. What is really their problem? How important is it to them? How much does it cost them? And once we know how much it costs them, then we can calculate the size of the market. We can calculate the cost and the number of people that have this problem and have a rough estimate of how big the market is, in money terms. We can also estimate the size of the market in potential customers and then make a reality test against our break-even point. If, for instance, we need ten customers to be sustainable and the market is twelve customers, that’s a big part of the market. It’s hard to earn that part of the market as one company. So we have to think that while we could make an important offer, the market share we need to be sustainable should not be that big.
The next step is to come more down to earth, to be more practical. Looking from our customer’s side, we have to think how we would like the information about the product or the service we offer, the product or the service itself to be served to us, to be delivered to us. How would we like this product to be delivered in terms of logistics, how would we like this product to be supported – before and after its purchase – in order to understand what can we actually do to make the value flourish for our customers.
Having realized what we have to do to deliver our value proposition to our customers, we have some more tough choices to make. One of the toughest ones is to learn to say no. We have to decide what we are going to do and what we’ll let others do. Build on other people’s shoulders, because they are better, they are bigger or they have more experience. And another thing is that, once we gain traction, once we show that we are people, we are an organization that can do things, other people will come and ask for other things. And then we have to say, to learn to say, no. We have to learn to say no to proposals, demands, that sidetrack us from our main mission to deliver the value we have designed.
People say that the most important part of a company is the team, the entrepreneurial team. The idea will change, the production plan will change, the marketing plan will change, but the entrepreneurial team is very hard to change and, once it changes, the equilibrium of the team will also change. So, we have to think hard about who we invite into the team. It’s not just a matter of skills, it’s not just a matter of allocation of tasks, it’s a matter of chemistry, it’s a matter of values. And in that chemistry we have to think ahead about problems that may arise. It’s better not to share our company with friends, with relatives, because we are familiar with them, because we like them. We have to make tough business decisions about the team we build.
So, once we have decided what it is exactly that we want to offer, once we have decided which our customers are going to be and how we are going to deliver our value proposition to them, who our partners will be and our team will be, all we need to do is work hard, work with zeal, enjoy our health and the journey. Thank you.

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