Lean Start Up is the widely accepted methodology for launching entrepreneurial endeavors. It relies on a process known as “customer discovery” to determine what potential clients want, how they make decisions, and what they are willing to do to obtain the product or service. After all, without customers, there is no business.
Customer discovery is a challenging proposition for most entrepreneurs since it requires going out and speaking with people, asking questions and listening. More often than not, the responses do not validate an entrepreneur’s “hypothesis,” warranting a reassessment and potential “pivot.”
Last week, I was fortunate to witness a political candidate execute a customer discovery session with a prominent entrepreneur. This candidate aims to foster the continued resurgence of Rochester and help our community seize the opportunity to be a leader in the New Economy.
The entrepreneur runs a successful software company employing 150 people in the city. It is well funded, has significant growth prospects and intends to continue hiring in Rochester. Employees are well paid and receive a rich benefit package. The candidate arrived asking questions…and listened.
The entrepreneur has never sought government assistance and does not intend to ask for tax credits or any other traditional incentive. He recognizes how our region is an ideal place to attract and retain talented employees. For technology companies, that is a critical ingredient for success.
The candidate asked how he might help and the entrepreneur responded thoughtfully, with an awareness of government’s abilities and limitations. His workforce is young, highly educated and represented by people who are in the early stages of family formation. The entrepreneur identified the importance of fostering a “cool” place to live. That, after all, is what attracts and retains the modern workforce.
By “cool” he meant a healthy urban environment. Prosperous communities embrace the suburban to urban population shift. Successful cities appreciate our changing relationship to the car and a desire for greater accessibility by foot or bike. They also recognize the impact the arts have on creating an attractive environment. Finally, the entrepreneur identified the need to address issues of race and poverty, understanding those issues are like termites eating at the foundation of a healthy community
I like to inform politicians that entrepreneurs do not wake up in the morning doing cartwheels because they have to hire people. Hiring is a difficult process fraught with potential errors and costs. Yet, many politicians continue to trumpet job creation at ribbon cuttings, self-congratulatory about procuring state support for businesses.
Entrepreneurs seek purchase orders and clients. With revenues comes the need to hire. The easier the government can make it to hire and retain qualified people, the more likely our government will have happy “customers.”
Richard A. Glaser is co-creator of RocGrowth and RocGrowth Candids and Coffee events. He was presented with Upstate Venture Connect’s Community Catalyst award for organizing programs that bring together diverse startup ecosystem players.