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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #132
Is it possible to build a successful startup you hate?
When I first started building companies, I assumed the secret to being a happy entrepreneur was to build a successful company. Then I started spending time with entrepreneurs running successful companies and discovered how miserable some of them were. Not all of the, certainly. But more than I’d expected.
Why, if they’d built successful companies, were the entrepreneurs unhappy? Hadn’t they accomplished what they’d intended? And wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Turns out, entrepreneurship isn’t different from any other job you might have. At least, it’s not different in terms of what leads to job satisfaction. If you enjoy your job, you’re probably doing something that aligns with your personal interests. Unfortunately, because entrepreneurs are often forced to do things they have to do because their companies need it rather than things they want to do, they can find themselves building successful companies but not enjoying it.
In some cases, this type of dynamic is unavoidable. However, certain types of companies require different types of work, and, if you’re not careful, you could be setting yourself up to build a company that inherently requires work you’ll hate doing.
Confused yet? Sorry… it’s kind of a complex idea. Maybe too complex, but I try to explain it in more detail in this issue’s featured article where I explain how I almost wound up building a company I would have hated. Give it a read and see if it makes more sense.
A successful startup isn’t necessarily a startup you’ll enjoy building. I avoided getting stuck with a startup I hated, but not every entrepreneur is so lucky.
Early E-commerce werrible. It was hard to navigate, shipping times were slow, and there was lots of fraud. Plus, you never knew if you were getting the best deal. That changed when Amir Ashkenazi launched his bargain hunting tool -- Shopping.com. Hear how he did it on Web Masters.
Listen now on:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
Lots of entrepreneurs think the best way to get customers is by selling the cheapest product. That can work for a small segment of customers, but is it might not be a segment of customers you want.
Office Hours Q&A
When creating a product (a real one) you don't need to find an audience, the product sells itself . Because it matches perfectly the customer needs.
OK… this wasn’t a question. It was actually a comment on one of my articles from last week where I focused on the value of building audiences versus building products. But the comment was so problematic, I had to address it.
PRODUCTS DO NOT SELL THEMSELVES.
END OF DISCUSSION.
To be clear, I’m not arguing products don’t matter. I’m not arguing that product-led growth isn’t possible. I’m pointing out a simple but unavoidable reality in entrepreneurship: You can have the greatest product in the world, but, if nobody knows about it, nobody will buy it.
Too many entrepreneurs think products are at the heart of entrepreneurial success. But we can all think of plenty of mediocre products we’ve bought. Surely the reason we bought those mediocre products wasn’t because there wasn’t a better option. It was because some other factor beyond product quality impacted our purchasing decision.
More often than not, that “other factor” is marketing. Marketing sells products. And successful product marketing happens when you’ve reached the right audience. Because of this, audience is more valuable than product.
Again, I’m not arguing your product doesn’t matter. If you give your audience a terrible product, you’re likely to lose that audience, and that’s a big deal. But, if you build an incredible product and can’t reach an audience, your company will fail. Never forget that.
Also… this is the part where I remind everyone reading this that the job of an entrepreneur isn’t to build great products. Investors create great products. Entrepreneurs solve problems. If solving a problem requires creating a new product, then you should create a new product (or find someone to create it for you). But the biggest challenge won’t be creating the product. The biggest challenge will be getting your solution into the hands of the people who need it.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!