The keyword to set the context of what I am writing about is ‘FOR‘ instead of ‘WITH‘. I am sure you have read and heard several reasons why you should not mix friendship and business but as far as I am concerned you should not build business for friends too.
If you are entrepreneurial in spirit, you would understand when I say that we entrepreneurs are constantly seeking new ideas to build them into a business. Hence most of the times we hear entrepreneurs say things like, you know what I am doing next, followed by some idea they are toying within their heads.
More often than not we end up looking at our friends and family to see what they would use and then thinking of turning that into a business. And that might not be the best way to validate or assess the early users. And here is why I say so…
Peas Of The Same Pod
Your set of friends, your circle will have more or less typical habits and lifestyles, which means their likes and dislikes will more or less be skewed towards the same side. So, while they might be the ones to seed a business idea in that entrepreneurial head of yours, you need more than their validation to make a full-fledged business out of it.
Also, if you are known to be entrepreneurial in your group, every time conversations meander around some common problem that everyone faces and they talk about a potential solution, fingers will most likely point towards you to you consider it to be your next big business idea.
Don’t take each one of them seriously! Rein your entrepreneurial horses and know what’s worth your while.
Do You Really Find Your Friends Using Your Product/Service?
Ever looked at the number of your Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn followers to feel reassured of users in them before launching your product or service. Well time to come out of the illusion. Most of the times they are not even reading your posts.
And even if they do, in most cases they will not be your first users and hence it is always an entrepreneurial challenge to get your early users. Acquaintances and your friend network, more often than not, need outside validation of what you are building.
F&F Discounts Are For Real…
… because friends and family will be the first ones to ask for it or even go to the extent of expecting you to offer your service/product for free. And trust me no entrepreneur needs or deserves that.
Your pricing is the value you have attached to your product or service. Giving it for free or at a meaningless discount is devaluing what you are building. Discounts are customer acquisition costs that you incur to get a new user on board and the new users are not friends and family.
In fact, they should be happy to pay without questioning because they should trust, respect and support what you are building. And you will see a whole lot of ways in which people ask for these discounts. Some I direct and say stuff like
‘And I know you will never ask me to pay for this because I promise I will give you valuable feedback’ or some others would be little coy and say “It’s so good to know the founder of the service I am going to use. Do I get any perks.”
My answer in both scenarios is polite, ‘If you use it you pay for it because someone once told me that if you are good at something don’t do it for me.’
Solve A Problem For The Masses And Let Your Friends Be Part Of The Mass
Your venture needs to sell itself like a solution to a problem and not just as a great B-plan. The moment you are able to make people realise why they need your product/service and how it makes their lives simpler, you have a customer.
Now back that up with a thought-through B-plan, customer service, the right expertise, technology etc and you have a customer for life. And follow this with strangers and friends/family alike.
Don’t beg people to try you out, give them a reason good enough to do so! And I learned this from my previous experience. I have had more friends and acquaintances signing up today looking at user reviews and hearing about us from others.
And that is perfect because I am no longer chasing them and I am no longer obliged to treat them any different than any other customer. Which also means less scope for them to try and negotiate the fees!
To sum it all up, if you have a problem-solving venture, it is only a matter of time when everyone comes around. But what is important is to move beyond your immediate circle to understand how big is the problem you are looking to solve and how many lives will your solution impact.
Sometimes we are the ones on the other side of the table, with one of our own venturing into something. That is when it is our turn to reach out and enable them. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey filled with doubts and criticism and hence it is important for one entrepreneur to support another. The loneliness of the journey towards building something is also the reason why we seek validation and encouragement from our immediate circle.
So next time someone around you is starting something new and asks you to try it out, support them rather than asking for freebies. Their time, effort, money and vision deserve respect and honest feedback. If we can’t give them that we can always choose to stay away…