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Tips for Startups

Customer Discovery: the Hidden Key to a Successful Startup

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key to Successful startup

The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.

Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?

Turns out, it’s something else.

What Is Customer Discovery?

Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.

When Would You Need Customer Discovery?

In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.

Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:

  1. You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
  2. You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
  3. You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).

Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.

Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.

Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis

This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.

The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.

You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?

That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.

As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.

Step Two: Define Your Assumptions

As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.

You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).

Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.

Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.

Step Three: Test It out

Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.

You are going to ask some people some questions.

The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.

Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.

As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.

You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.

This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.

To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:

  • What do you currently do for…?
  • Do you like the process?
  • Is it working out for you?
  • If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
  • What is the biggest challenge about…?
  • What do you like about it?

And so on.

The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.

Step Four: Evaluate Your Data

Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.

If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.

This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.

If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.

Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.

Final Thoughts

Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.

Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.

Tips for Startups

Choosing The Best Tech Service Providers: For Start-up Companies

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Choosing The Best Tech Service Providers

As a business owner, you should carefully choose your IT service provider since it could be one of your most significant business decisions. Your technology partner should be a close advisor on the IT services you need now and in the future.

Moreover, your technology partner should be one that understands your business and industry. So how do you choose the best technology service provider from the hundreds of IT services companies on the market?

Let’s find out.

●     Available Services and Solutions

The first way to get the best IT business is to understand the IT solutions and services since it can help narrow down your options. Every company has its preferences and needs in correlation to its industry.

Therefore you should identify and layout your preferred tech providers based on your needs. When looking for an IT company, it is not only about which service provider has the most services available.

You shouldn’t pick because they offer multiple or several services. Instead, it would be best if you considered the levels of tech support that your company would need, such as an entire managed IT support system, break or fix service, or pay-as-you-go tech support.

●     In-House or Outsourced IT Support

Your business or company will grow and operate seamlessly depending on the tech support you will use. A competitive IT service provider would ask and respect your choice between both parties.

Outsourced and in-house IT support services have several differences from one another. This is why you should pick the correct one for your business.

Like the name, outsourced IT support is ideal for companies that cannot support the additional associated costs of having IT experts residing in their company. Outsourced IT service providers are usually called Managed Service Providers (MSPs).

You may ask, what is a managed service provider and do you need one? Well, a managed service provider (MSP) is a third-party company capable of remotely managing your end-user systems and information technology infrastructure.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), startups, government, and nonprofit agencies usually hire MSPs to perform defined day-to-day IT problems and management services.

On the other hand, as the name implies, in-house IT support is composed of IT experts who will work inside your companies and be assigned to your company’s IT department.

●     Experience and Alignment of Your Industry

You should ensure that your preferred or chosen IT service provider provides tech-related assistance to your company. Ensure that they do not have insufficient experience, expertise, or knowledge about your industry since it could be a massive risk to your company’s operation.

It would be bad to make the mistake of hiring inexperienced service providers in your industry. They would do more harm than good though they might have an impressive overall review or rating as a service provider.

●     Reactive Support/Proactive Maintenance

Quality support should not end with solving a problem. A good tech service provider would be proactive in monitoring systems to ensure issues are stopped before they start.

When they monitor and practice conditions maintenance, your tech service provider would be able to keep minor problems from becoming large and affecting your business productivity.

It would be best if you had a proactive tech service provider, but your business might also need a reactive tool to handle your day-to-day IT problems such as network connectivity, phone issues, printer problems, cloud issues, and computer problems.

●     Budget Planning 

As a startup or a small company, you should consider your budget before choosing a tech service provider. Though all budgets are not equal, this does not mean that you should skimp on quality for cost. Instead, a good tech service provider would help you identify and budget for services to help your business succeed.

●     Efficient Communication Channels

Lastly, ensure that you choose a tech service provider capable of establishing good communication platforms accessible to both parties. You have the right to know what happens behind the scenes as their client and also get involved in monitoring your tech systems.

You can efficiently handle this by establishing a communication channel that is convenient and favorable for both parties.

Final Words

Excellent companies are differentiated from bad ones by the integration of IT support. In the current era, you must manage your business data process and information in an organized, efficient, and smooth way.

Moreover, you can achieve this by collaborating with a tech service provider. When searching for the best tech service provider to solve your business needs, the above guide will help you with that.

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Tips for Startups

Best Sustainability Tips For Construction Startups

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Sustainability Tips For Construction Startups

The construction industry has immense opportunities, making it one of the top choices for startup entrepreneurs. The demand for new projects is high, and renovation and upgrade projects also keep contractors busy. The domain promises massive profit margins and long-term revenue growth. But startups have to face several challenges such as competition, complexity, and regulations.

Moreover, the growing public awareness of the environmental impact of the industry makes sustainability a necessity. Not surprisingly, going green is one of the key goals for businesses operating in this segment. But most entrepreneurs struggle to find ways to bring eco-friendliness to construction processes and projects. We have the best sustainability tips a startup can follow.

Lower impact on surrounding areas

Most projects require excavation as an integral element of the construction of buildings, bridges, and roads. It can have a far-reaching impact on the surrounding area, leading to soil erosion and the clearing of green belts. But you can do your bit by retaining as much of the soil and vegetation as possible. Trees, shrubs, and grass prevent soil erosion and flooding, so preserving them can make your business green. Apply mulch or geotextile materials to prevent additional soil loss. You can install graveled or padded areas along the entrance and exit points. These points act as a buffer and keep the mud, soil, and sediments from reaching public roads.

Source local materials

With growing globalization, construction companies and designers can access a greater variety of materials from far and wide. The idea is alluring as it can enhance the aesthetics and add novelty to your projects. But it may not be the best thing to do from a sustainability perspective. Transferring construction materials over long distances entails the use of more energy and resources. Sourcing locally takes you a step ahead with an environmentally-friendly approach. It cuts down the carbon footprint of your business by lowering fuel consumption for transportation. Moreover, it is a way to support local suppliers and providers.

Choose eco-friendly materials

Another measure that takes your construction startup an extra mile with sustainability is the use of eco-friendly construction materials. Ensure that the materials you use are non-toxic and made using sustainable practices. For example, switching to low-VOC paints is a good idea. You can use cement blended with calcium carbonate instead of the standard variant. The use of CaCO3 reduces the carbon emission from cement plants significantly, so you can pick the material in an effort to go eco-friendly. Using non-toxic materials has additional benefits as it limits respiratory issues for workers and residents. It boosts your reputation as an employer and business alike.

Reuse building material

It is easy to use the principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling in construction projects, so you are in a better place to embrace eco-consciousness. Whether constructing a new building or renovating an existing space, you have to deal with waste materials such as concrete, wooden planks, and steel trusses. The last thing you should do is dump the waste into the nearest landfill. Opt for an eco-friendly approach by recycling the waste material. You can look for a crushing facility to turn the waste into dry aggregate and reuse it in other construction projects. Besides taking your startup a step ahead with sustainability, reusing these recycled materials entails massive savings in the long run.

Revamp your processes

Revamping your processes is another way to achieve the goal of eco-friendliness for your business. Start early because it is more efficient and cost-effective than changing the course somewhere down the line. Consider establishing a vendor network that provides you with eco-friendly materials. Hire people with experience in sustainable construction and invest in sustainability training programs for your existing team. Build eco-consciousness into your company culture rather than trying to force the mindset into the existing business processes. Also, you can consider standardizing processes as it helps in wrapping up projects more quickly and efficiently. Moreover, it reduces mistakes and eliminates waste from projects. Using equipment efficiently and avoiding wastage of energy are other crucial aspects of revamping the processes.

Sustainability in the construction industry is an achievable goal, provided you are willing to take the right approach. Even startups can go eco-friendly from the early stages because the initiative does not require immense effort and investment. You only need to make wise choices and think of better ways of doing things. Starting early gets you in a vantage position as you can build a sustainable business with a good reputation in the long run. Follow these tips to move one step ahead with the goa.

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Tips for Startups

Startup Owner’s Tips To Build Defense Against False Accusations

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false accusation

The road to entrepreneurship is not easy, and you have to deal with multiple roadblocks along the way. Think beyond the financial and operational challenges of establishing a startup because you may encounter unexpected impediments. False allegations of assault and molestation may stand in your way as rivals and opponents try to pull you down. Even your employees may have wrong motives to accuse you of a crime you have not committed.

 As a startup owner, you must take the risk seriously and have a plan to deal with such situations even before you come across them. Awareness and preparation get you in a better place to resolve such severe allegations, save your reputation, and protect your business in the long run. Here are a few tips you can rely on to build your defense against false allegations.

Maintain a calm stance

A false allegation can take you by surprise, and it is easy to lose your cool and react wrongly in such a situation. But you may end up helping the accuser by acting impulsively or showing aggression. Moreover, you may even give a police statement that can hurt your defense later if you behave irrationally. Maintaining your composure should be a priority, no matter how grave the situation appears. A calm stance lets you think clearly, and work on a viable plan to address the situation.

Try to understand the accuser’s motives

It is crucial to understand the accuser’s motives for bringing up the false allegations against you. Are they working for a competitor who wants to harm your reputation or pull down your startup? Do they want to exploit you for an unlawful favor as an employee? Is personal jealousy the reason for the accusation? Consider the possibilities, but steer clear of confronting the accuser directly. You must act carefully to stay on the right side of the law.

Hire a specialist attorney

Assuming that the court will believe your innocence because you are not guilty can land you in a fix. You must do your bit to prove facts. The first step after the accusation should be to hire a specialist legal professional. Connect with a sex crime defense lawyer with relevant expertise and experience. Remember not to give any statements to the police until you meet your lawyer. You have the right to remain silent, so use it because anything you say can incriminate you.

Gather evidence to prove your innocence

Your lawyer will require evidence to prove your innocence and build a robust defense. Share the smallest details and every piece of evidence you can possibly find with your lawyer. These could be emails, messages, pictures, or video footage proving that you have nothing to do with the allegation. At times, employees accuse bosses due to misunderstandings. Find witnesses to clarify the facts with their testimonies. Narrate the entire chain of events to the lawyer to help them present your side of the story in court to get you a clean chit.

Seek support from your team

As an entrepreneur facing a false accusation, you may have to go the extra mile to salvage your reputation and credibility. The best way to do it is by seeking support from your startup team during the crisis. Knowing that you have your employees at your back gives you the strength and confidence to deal with the implications. You can rely on them to hold the fort and keep the business running while you work on your defense plan.

Look after your mental health

Another factor that needs your attention during tough times is your mental well-being. Entrepreneurs have a stressful life, and a false accusation can make things only worse. Take self-care measures to safeguard your mental health by doing away with stress. Eat a healthy diet, exercise daily, and connect with your loved ones. Your family can play a crucial role in tough times. Consider seeing a therapist if things seem too hard to handle. Never lose grip because it can get things out of control.

Being falsely accused of a sex crime as a startup owner is the worst you can face. But there are ways to clear your name and save your reputation, provided you have a robust defense plan. A sex crime defense specialist can be your savior, so get one on board as soon as possible. Your business and reputation are precious, so do not leave them to chance even if you are innocent. Build your defense to come out clean, and focus on your venture again.

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