If I have to rephrase the question, what is the starting point for an entrepreneur?
As a lean startup coach, you probably expect me to say that the starting point is the customer. I beg to differ, though. The best place to start is to explore yourself a little bit more. After all, entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with personal growth.
Start asking yourself, what are your passions? How did they develop? What kind of problems are you facing, while you are pursuing them?
I will give you an example. Let’s assume that your major passion is a tango dancing. I am choosing this because I am not just a great fan! I actually believe it is a new cult and treat it like one! Until a couple of years ago I would not hesitate to go out dancing 5-6 days a week! And I would still be doing that, if my twins were not so demanding of my evenings!
So, tango is a major part of some people’s life. They dedicate most of their time listening to music, they spend hours choosing the right tracks, they hunt on the internet and in local shops specialised shoes and exquisite dresses. Everything needs to be perfect on the night they will experience the perfect dance!
So, the night comes and then problems start arising. The new shoes may be too tight, the partner’s breath may be too smelly, the baby sitter may have decided to cancel at the last minute, the traffic to get there may have been atrocious, the dress may have suffered certain ‘malfunctions’. Shall I go on?
Bottom line the problems are annoying and need a solution. Here is the point where entrepreneurial skills enter the picture. The entrepreneur and keen tango dancer observes the issues carefully. S/he analyses the processes that led to the problem and decides to tackle them; first for himself/ herself and then for others.
It is always so much better when someone has first hand experience of the issues and has something at stake. The passion for perfection, or at least a viable solution, drives a lot of the entrepreneurs around.
Once the problem is located, then a solution should be found. The entrepreneur should dive into an introspective mood once more. This time s/he needs to assess his / her skills in relation to the problem.
If the problem is the tight shoes, does s/he have the skills of a cobbler? If not, are there other solutions? How about creating a service that offers new shoes on the spot? How about another service that gives specific advice on shoe-buying? Or what if someone creates a software program that allows buyers to buy the perfect high heels?
So, the first step is to follow your passions. The second step is to identify your skills or talents. Only the third step is to find your customers.
This is when you need to physically get out of the building (or in the tango case, get into the dancing hall) to ask your future clients, if they are facing the same problems. If they do, how did they solve them, how much did they pay for it, how much is the solution worth for them (although I would not take at face value the answer to this last question)? How high is their problem rated in their hierarchy of needs?
These three steps cannot be escaped. They are part of the natural entrepreneurial process that precedes the idea. So, keep your eyes, ears, nose open and try to identify the most lucrative situations/ problems around you. Sharpen your observation skills and do not let the opportunities fly away. Even if you do not have the skills to offer a solution, it is never too late to acquire them.
For more information on lean startup methodology, you could take a look at my other blog posts.