The obvious answer to an entrepreneur’s need is “finance” while the correct answer is ‘guts’ which translates into risk taking capability. As “guts” is an inherent quality of human nature and passion, it is still not a need. What does an entrepreneur really need?
After speaking to several entrepreneurs who began a business under different circumstances, the resultant theory was that the one need for all entrepreneurs lies in getting the first set of customers. It goes without saying that any start-up does need customers! That leads us to ask, “What kind of customers?”
The kind that will not only test your product but also criticise it in front of you. Yes! this is what an entrepreneur really needs. A customer who pays and is candid about the working of the product. This is the time that marks a difference between an opportunist riding the bubble of popular business against an entrepreneur who cares for their product and is keen to listen to critical analysis of the product. So is the need of an entrepreneur ‘criticism’?
Nay! I shan’t believe that we are so shallow that we have to produce a product and listen to bathos in our belief. Listening is a great art but letting someone walk all over your product is worse than getting violated and beaten, working for someone else. Am I being contradictory? I guess a little; disambiguating, the important thing about giving criticism is that it should be sandwiched with good vs. bad feedback. If your critic is purely critical, they probably have a different agenda than letting you know the areas of improvement in your product!
That brings us back to the question, ‘what does an entrepreneur really need?’ Lets bring back the good critic who sandwiches his criticism along with what he believes works for him in the product. While listening is a skill that is needed, not just for an entrepreneur, it is a larger requirement for a start-up than a well established company. So we need people, people who tell us what is good about our product and more importantly; what does not work in the product. Having said that, the need of an entrepreneur is to listen to people’s likes and dislikes. Well! one entrepreneur told me that he listened hard to people and created a product that people liked, but not enough people!
The term for this is ‘critical mass’. The need of an entrepreneur is critical mass! I remember when I started digicat, I would never have ventured into this business unless the government had helped create critical mass on the advertising medium called ‘internet’. The internet in India was a medium that started of with 4 million users in 2001, 16 million in 2004 and crossed 50 million users in 2009. Now I can target a large part of the indian society through this medium. If I tried to target 4 million users and expected an average response of 0.002% that would mean that advertisers would have paid for 4000000 users and received 80 responses! This is why critical mass is so important to start anything.
How does one comprehend and negotiate the need for critical mass in a start-up? The first set of customers will buy your product for different needs of their own. The skill of the entrepreneur to understand each need and find the archetype of the need for his/her critical mass marks an entrepreneurial skill. Now that you have the data, you must process the data to produce fruits of critical mass. While a need can be broken down into several archetypes, Concentrate on the archetype that produces customer delight!
The real need of an entrepreneur is to produce customer delight in his/her products. This will viral the brilliance of the entrepreneurs product to result in critical mass. Once an entrepreneur has attained critical mass, the job of the entrepreneur is to scale. Hence the real need of any entrepreneur is to gain critical mass. To decide on what is the critical mass for your business, the best sources are historic data on substitute products/services or setting a number based on a percentage of the population that is catered to by the business.
Would love to hear from you and discuss on needs of an entrepreneur. Please do add your own ideas of what an entrepreneur really needs?