Author Archives: C. DAY

Getting to “No”

Leaders love to be work heroes.  But that can come at a hidden cost.  Oftentimes, the most valuable thing you can do is say no –and here’s how.

Mary was doing well at VP of business development at a San Francisco tech company.  She’d been hired to create goodwill within the community, and she was a perfect fit.  But here work had started suffering.  Her CEO has asked her to take on a new project in Brazil, which would require here to spend at least a third of her time there.  Her instinct was to say yes; she didn’t want to lose her CEO’s approval, and the opportunity was an honor.  But realistically, she couldn’t be in South America and do what she’d been hired to do in San Francisco too.

When I met with her, I recognized the problem immediately.  I’ve been an executive coach for more than 25 years, and Mary had made one of the biggest mistakes I see among top executives and founders: They’re always saying yes.  Leaders want to grow business, please people, avoid conflict, and keep a job. But accepting every request or business proposition can render leaders overloaded and overworked.  Since this prevents them from thinking clearly, it can also keep them from focusing on their –and the organization’s–most important work.

With another client of mine, the founder of a company who agreed to every merger and acquisition that came his way, I put on a whiteboard all the costs of saying yes –his health, barely knowing his daughter, his COO constantly rotated.  When he looked at the board, he cried. I get it; telling someone no feels selfish.  But when you learn to say it artfully and strategically, everyone is wins in the end.  It’s all in how you deliver that important, critical word.  Consider one of these approaches:

1.  The flat-out ?No”.  It’s best for a reason.  Consider, “I appreciate your request.  Since it comes from you, I’ve given it a lot of thought.  But, I have to say no because I’ve already committed to X and Y.                                                                                                                                                                       2.  Tinker with the timing.  Offer to tackle the request at a later date.                                                   3.  Accept with conditions.  After the request, alter the conditions –“If you assigns a project manager who can assure time and budget, I’ll be happy to handle X.”                                                                4.  Become a problem solver and offer an alternative solution.

The thing about saying no is that it enables you to say yes in a much more collaborative way.  We often think people don’t want to hear “No”, but CEOs get frustrated when people accept and then can’t deliver.  They generally have more trust in somebody who is assertive –who can either push back or provide a new way to deal with the situation.  My client’s boss saw that in her and thought Wow, she understands the business.  In his eyes, she’s not a naysayer –she’s a business strategist.

by Nadine Greiner in Stress-Less Leadership available at bookstores and excerpted in Magazine July-August 2019.



A slowdown in US business formation poses a risk to economy

Despite a decade-plus of economic growth, Americans have slowed the pace at which they’re forming new companies, a trend that risks further widening the gap between the most affluent and everyone else.

The longest expansion on record, which began in mid-2009, has failed to restore entrepreneurship to its pre-recession level, according to a Census Bureau report based on tax filings.

Between 2007 and the first half of 2019, applications to form businesses that would likely hire workers fell 16%. Though the pace of applications picked up somewhat after 2012, it dipped again this year despite President Donald Trump’s assertion that his tax cuts and deregulatory drive would benefit smaller companies and their workers. App

Business formation has long been one of the primary ways in which Americans have built wealth. When fewer new companies are established, fewer Americans tend to prosper over time. In addition, smaller companies account for roughly 85% of all hiring, making them an entry point for most workers into the workforce. Even with the unemployment rate at a near-record-low of 3.7%, a decline in the creation of new companies means there are fewer companies competing for workers, a trend that generally slows pay growth. The pace of pay growth has stalled for the past five months even as hiring has remained healthy.

“What you see is reduced social and economic mobility,” said Steve Strongin, head of global investment research at Goldman Sachs. “It means that most of the growth is occurring in the corporate sphere, which keeps wage growth down and improves profits.”

Smaller companies and startups were generally cautious about expanding as they emerged from the Great Recession, in many cases choosing not to hire. The 2008 financial crisis delivered a warning to many would-be entrepreneurs that scaling back their ambitions might help them survive another recession.

Goldman Sachs on Thursday is releasing a survey of business owners who took part in its “10,000 Small Businesses” program, which has provided management training to several thousand small companies since 2010. The survey concluded that entrepreneurs typically struggle to find qualified workers and to navigate complex regulations. Both factors tend to slow the formation of new companies.

Among the business owners who were surveyed, nearly eight in 10 said they favor a higher local minimum wage well above the federal baseline of $7.25 an hour. Focus groups conducted as part of Goldman’s survey indicate that smaller companies believe wages have failed to keep pace with the costs of living and the retention of employees.

Just 20% of the surveyed business owners said they felt that Trump’s 2017 tax cut would increase their companies’ growth, according to the online survey of 2,285 alumni of the Goldman program.

Social and demographic forces are also thought to be limiting opportunities for entrepreneurs and smaller companies. America is aging, many young adults are weighed down by student debt and larger retailers have used their scale to offer lower prices than smaller companies can afford to do so.


Questions Are the Answer.

Alexander Osterwalder, co-founder of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) used to design a new business under the lean method, hosted a webinar today interviewing Hal Gregersen, world authority on questioning. His topic is critical to success when building a business model canvas  (BMC) and a founder/entrepreneur attempts to elicit revealing answers from an end-user, potential buyer. The process of interviewing is both an art and a science much like entrepreneurship, but critical to the validation or no-go of a product or service idea.

Two main takeaways were creation of an uncomfortable quiet and use of “catalytic” questions.  For example, Intuit was turned back to innovation by the founder Scott Cook changing from dropping long “to-do” lists on subordinates desks to walking into the person’s office and asking, “what are you wrestling with today”, waiting a pregnant minute for an answer, and then asking, “what can I do to help”.  In Hal Gregersen’s own words:

“As disruptive innovators, from Albert Einstein to Jack Dorsey, put it, “Question everything!” Engage in pure question talk, with one team member writing down each question verbatim. This gives everyone the chance (especially introverts) to see each question, reflect a bit, and then create even better ones. Don’t give preambles to the questions and don’t devote any time or energy to answering them. Just ask. Ask as many questions as you can. Go for at least 50, perhaps 75. But don’t give up when your mind goes blank around question 35. Savor the momentary dead space and continue the search for even better, more provocative questions, which will come with patience and persistence. It usually takes 10 to 20 minutes to exhaust a group’s questioning capacity. Push for exhaustion.

At a recent World Economic Forum workshop, this five-step Catalytic Questioning process took 24 minutes. It rapidly engaged the group, turbocharged a subsequent brainstorming session (conducted right after by Tim Brown from IDEO), and helped identify several intriguing new areas of potential industry disruption. During the debrief, most participants agreed that asking nothing but questions was a surprisingly powerful tool for revealing innovative solutions. They left the session highly energized to become even better question catalysts within their everyday work.

Across the globe, I have seen the same process—and success—occur with thousands of executives and entrepreneurs, including Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, who realized, “if your questioning muscles have atrophied, it’s time to start exercising those muscles.” Catalytic Questioning ensures this essential leadership skill improves over time to unlock even better, more creative solutions. What you discover in this questioning quest might not only surprise you, but may also unearth an entirely new direction for your team, organization, or career.”

Hal wants the questioner to create a condition of awkwardness to embrace silence, working off answers to new questions and “operating on the edge of uncertainty”.  Somehow the questions become the answer!

Hal Gregersen is Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center, a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management,



36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival

The annual 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival located in Nashville, Tennessee (named for latitude 36 and longitude 86) engages the startup ecosystem in substantial ways! Launch Tennessee creates the perfect balance of venues, speakers, sponsors and volunteers. Launch Tennessee CEO, Margaret Dolan helps transform Music City into an Entrepreneurship destination friendly for all startups.

Two bright summer days, engaging conversations and southern hospitality like you would not believe, create an environment that earns its national presence. Across entrepreneurship disciplines, both successes and failures are shared for the attendees benefit.

Both days, the agenda is packed with options to explore with amazing Pitch Competitions and networking events like Live on the Green concert capping each day off with a win for everyone. A keynote chat includes Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, US Senator Bob Corker and Commissioner Bob Rolfe discussing the importance of their startup friendly state and lessons learned. A main event discussion showcases Apple Machine Learning & Accessibility Research Leader Jeffrey P. Bigham. Jeffrey’s conversation reveals how carefully Apple approaches Machine Learning to ensure that it will continue to improve accessibility for all their users. He focuses on the iPhone as an example to point out each way a user engages with device covering Vision, Hearing, Mobility and Learning. One ambitious panel covers the importance of art and the creative economy with the agreed upon passionate statement, ‘Artists are Independent but Not Alone!’ in a call for community and support. Andrea Zieher, Contemporary Art Director, is leading the way on a major statewide contemporary art event in 2021 named the Tennessee Triennial.

The unique 36|86 agenda spread across venues allows for an immersive learning experience for each attendee. Entrepreneurs in need of funding are even supported with ‘Investor Speed dating’ to pitch their companies during the event and build their network!

Take a look at this two minute highlight video clip to see 36|86 for yourself!

Thank you to the amazing Launch TN team for their contribution to the startup Entrepreneurs of your great state and beyond!

Overall, 36|86 captures the essence of why Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc. believes in offering the Entrepreneurship products and trainings we do!

Save the Date for 36|86 August 26-27 2020!

by Clinton D. Swigart, CPA, MA
Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc.

NACCE 2019 Entrepreneurship Star Award

By Clinton D. Swigart

Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HCC hosts the Annual Susie Steiner Community Impact Award Breakfast with an outstanding morning reception full of laughs, tears and accomplishments. Hosts Beth Kerly and Dr. Andy Gold captivate the audience with their fun-loving antidotes inviting the audience in to feel the rollercoaster of highs and lows experienced throughout the year as if you were right there with them.

Of the awards presented, one especially is near and dear to our hearts which is this year’s NACCE Entrepreneur Star Award! The NACCE Entrepreneur Star Award presented by Rebecca Corbin, President of NACCE goes to… CLINTON E. DAY!

Here is the exciting presentation for your viewing pleasure in which Dr. Corbin explains the importance of the award given and Clinton E. Day shares highlights and lessons learned of his Entrepreneurship journey with his beautiful wife Donna (my two amazing Godparents).

Thank you all for your continued support of and our educational nonprofit Entrepreneurship Resources, Inc.

8 Wacky Entrepreneur Stories to Inspire Your Own Business Success

 The business world might appear buttoned-down from the outside – but in reality, it’s a lot more interesting than you might realize. Many entrepreneurs are known for being colorful characters, both at work and in their personal lives. After all, following rules and staying inside the lines doesn’t often make for business success! From winning seed money in a poker game to attempting to clone dinosaurs, here are eight unexpected things that entrepreneurs have done.

1. John Paul DeJoria Bounced Back from Homelessness

You’ve probably heard of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patrón tequila, but did you know these brands have a common origin? John Paul DeJoria co-founded both legendary companies, becoming a billionaire along the way. The path to success wasn’t always easy for him, though. DeJoria spent time on the streets twice. The first time he was homeless, he was only 22 and had a two-year-old son to care for. He persisted in his entrepreneurial vision, though, eventually co-founding John Paul Mitchell Systems with $700 in startup cash. Today, DeJoria is a philanthropist who supports a number of social causes. Among other things, he helps to provide resources to people dealing with homelessness.

2. David Daneshgar Won Startup Money by Playing Poker

What’s the quickest way to come up with $30,000? If you’re a card shark like David Daneshgar, the answer might be to sign up for a poker tournament. Daneshgar and two friends wanted to start an online marketplace connecting florists with customers, but they didn’t have startup cash. So Daneshgar – who won the World Series of Poker in 2008 – spent $1000 to enter a poker tournament.The grand prize of $30,000 was, coincidentally, just the amount of money they needed. At the end of the tense final round, Daneshgar told his friends what they wanted to hear: “It’s flower time.” They launched their business, BloomNation, soon afterwards.

3. Seth Priebatsch Took Dedication to a New Level – While Barefoot

In 2011, SCVNGR – a social app similar to FourSquare – was a $100 million company with a rather non-traditional CEO. Founder Seth Priebatsch, the self-described “chief ninja” of the company, was 22 years old at the time, and he had a habit of eschewing footwear at the office. He also sported a bright orange shirt every day and rarely went home from work, preferring to sleep in his office. Priebatsch transformed SCVNGR into a mobile payments platform called LevelUpin 2012, but he kept his title of Chief Ninja and his signature orange shirt.

4. Nicholas Berggruen Decided Not to Bother Buying a House

For most billionaire businesspeople, having more than one home is par for the course. But for years, Nicholas Berggruen avoided ever buying a house at all. He opted to live exclusively in hotels while traveling the world instead, which earned him the curious nickname of “the homeless billionaire.” Recently, though, Berggruen decided to put down some roots. He finally bought a $40 million house in 2017, perhaps wishing to give his two young children a stable place to grow up.

5. Mark Zuckerberg Killed His Own Food

In 2011, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg undertook a personal challenge to only eat meat that he killed himself. He announced this challenge to the world with his now-infamous status update, “I just killed a pig and a goat,” on May 4, 2011. Zuckerberg soon clarified that he took on the challenge in an effort to learn about sustainable farming and to consume resources more responsibly. The change wasn’t permanent, though. After the year-long challenge was over, Zuckerberg went back to buying meat at the store.

6. Clive Palmer Tried to Clone a Dinosaur

What if Jurassic Park wasn’t just a movie? Eccentric Australian businessman Clive Palmer wanted to make dinosaurs a reality through cloning, and he went so far as to discuss the idea with scientists. This happened in 2012, and since cloning techniques still haven’t advanced enough to bring back extinct species, it doesn’t look like Palmer’s dreams will be coming to fruition anytime soon. However, his love for dinosaurs abides. In 2013, he opened a theme park called Palmersaurus that features over 160 enormous dinosaur replicas.

7. Mark Benioff Staged a Protest to Steal a Competitor’s Spotlight

Mark Benioff, one of the founders of Salesforce, is notorious for coming up with over-the-top (and sometimes inflammatory) marketing gimmicks. Most famously, he once orchestrated a fake protest at a Siebel Systems conference, complete with picket signs, chanting, and even a fake TV crew. This drummed up a lot of attention for Salesforce at his rival’s expense. On another occasion, Benioff arranged to rent an airport’s entire taxi fleet right before another Siebel event was held nearby. He then had his employees pitch Salesforce on the way to the event, much to Siebel’s displeasure.

8. Robert Klark Graham Tried to Create a Genius Sperm Bank

Robert K. Graham was an entrepreneur who invented shatter-proof lenses for eyeglasses. Today, though, he’s probably better remembered for the controversial sperm bank he started. Called the Repository for Germinal Choice, this sperm bank only accepted donations from people who were considered extraordinary in some way. Some were Nobel prize winners, some were geniuses, and some were gifted athletes. Graham’s reason for starting the sperm bank? He wanted to create a better human gene pool – a mission that did not go over well with many people, who compared his ideas to Nazi eugenics programs. The sperm bank was closed in 1999, two years after Graham’s death. It claimed to have produced 229 children during its 19 years of operation.

Wrapping Up

Entrepreneurship tends to attract people with unique minds and strong personalities, and that can make for a lot of interesting stories. Do you have any wacky entrepreneur moments of your own to share? We’d love to read your stories, whether inspiring or just plain entertaining, in the comments below!

By Adam Heitzman Co-founder, HigherVisibility, Published in Inc. Magazine March 2018

Opportunities Everywhere.

“When you think like an entrepreneur, you see everything around you differently.”

A few months ago, my wife and I were brainstorming ways to market our novel.  We spend three years writing it together -it’s called Mr. Nice Guy, and it  comes out October 16.  And as any author knows, publicizing and marketing a book is tough.  It’s a crowded space, few publications cover books in any meaningful way, and readers are hard to reach.

We stared into the air for a while.  Then, I thought, What would happen if I stopped looking at this like an author, and started doing it like an entrepreneur?  And with that, a new world opened up.  I don’t see entrepreneurship as a career  choice.  It’s a mindset.  That’s the thing I marvel at most when spending time with brilliant entrepreneurs,  and it’s the skill I think everyone should continually hone.  When you think like an entrepreneur, it like wearing augmented reality glasses.  You see the same things as everyone else, but you see them differently.  They appear as inactive opportunities, just waiting to be achieved.  All you need is to find a new way for something old to be useful.

There are ample famous examples of this, of course.  Airbnb realized that a house isn’t just a house;  it’s a rentable space.  Uber resized that a car isn’t just a car; it’s a taxi service.  But his happens on a smaller scale, too. Consider the inventor of a butter dish called Butteries, who told me she couldn’t afford $10,000 ini market research.  She realized the airport wasn’t just a place to travel;  it was actually a perfect polling place, filled with people who have nothing better to do than answer questions about butter dishes, and so she began showing up early for flights and surveying travelers.  Or take the man I interviewed whose camera equipment business was slowing.  He realized Amazon wasn’t just aside to sell products -it was really a giant R & D Lab, where he could scour reviews of other products to meet the commenters’ specific desires.  “I like this clock, but I wish the numbers were bigger”, someone might write.  Bingo.  Today his company, C+A Global, sells tens of thousands of products and has offices around the world.

So, I started thinking about what I’d overlooked.  What had I once thought of as just a part of my book, but that was really an inactive opportunity?  And then aha!  There’s a critical scene that features a remote-controlled vibrator.  (You weren’t expecting that, I bet.  Mr. Nice Guy is a romantic comedy about two people who each week sleep together and then critically review each other’s performance in a magazine.)  What if the vibrator wasn’t just any ol’ vibrator but was instead …some brand’s vibrator?  I called the adult product company Adam & Eve with a proposal:  I’d put them in the scene, in exchange for them emailing their entire list about our book. They said yes.  Interactive opportunity: activated.  This was exciting.  And, addictive!  I kept going.  Would Elliott Clark, a well-respected cocktail creator I met who goes by Apartment Bartender, make drinks inspired by the book?  Sounds fun, he said.  Most authors launch their books at bookstores, but…what if that’s actually an interactive opportunity?  I emailed a friend at WeWork; would they host our party and invite members?  Yes, they would!  Now, back to Elliott;  Would he come?  Yes!  Could he get us a liquor sponsor?  Yes!  Opportunities everywhere!

This thinking is equal parts thrill and anxiety.  There’s the thrill of finding opportunities and the anxiety of never possibly finding them all.  But at least there’s a solution:  Make the mindset a habit.  Do it until it become second nature, until you can’t remember what it was like to not see opportunity everywhere.  You’ll see more every day.  Why else do you think I wrote this month’s column the way I have?  This, right here, was an opportunity I needed to activate.  Now you can let me know if I was successful.

Jason Feifer is Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, reprinted with his kind permission.


51 Countries Participate in Hive 2019

Your ‘Current in Entrepreneurship’ editor above had the pleasure of attending the Hive Global Leaders Summit August 15-18 in the Santa Cruz mountains, Scotts Valley, CA near Silicon Valley this year. Simply stated it is an event like no other. Hive members are changing the world, solving humanity’s greatest challenges, making a difference in their local communities, and are committed to personal transformation. Members are working together to create a world in which everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

This flagship annual event, the Hive Global Leaders Summit (GLS) was a 3.5-day immersive workshop on purpose, leadership, entrepreneurship, and wellness held in August. Hive also hosts major events in Germany, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Nigeria, Liberia, India, Pakistan, Australia, and The Philippines. Members become part of a lifelong community of purpose-driven leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and innovators working together on creating a better world while supporting each other in their personal and professional growth. Over 3,000 leaders from 130 countries are part of the Hive community globally. The organization helps leaders improve their lives through local gatherings and high-quality digital experiences.

It is a group of like-minded social entrepreneurs forming a powerful tribe to do better world work by taking on humanity’s problems and raising standards of living through synergy and diversity. As an example at this year’s gathering, there were panel discussions, renown speakers (Marianne Williamson, a democratic candidate for U. S. President, gave the keynote address suggesting dramatic political change), and self-improvement breakout sessions (public speaking, the “Da Vinci Within”, Authentic Relationships, and Evolve Venturing). By far the the most impactful session was given the last full day by host and Hive CEO Ryan Allis and Nadia Mufti on Designing Your Life Purpose.

This segment can be life-changing for participants. Ryan and Nadia guide cohorts through an experiential exercise called Designing Your life using the Hive purpose model, “What I love doing, What I am good at, What the world needs, and What I can paid for”. As these four wheels intersect, there is a creation of passion, mission, profession, and vocation to define each person’s purpose. These questions are broken down into meaning. For example, for “What do I love doing”, you are asked to answer “When am I most ‘in flow’, what excites me, what makes me come alive, and when am I the happiest”? Near the end people draw their purpose statement and, significantly, list 90-day, 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals that deliberately include holistic actions like health, travel, work, family, relationships and habits.

At my stage of life I help others learn and grow through entrepreneurship. But, even here I was able to think through a major philanthropic decision using the Hive technique. Three characteristics of a great purpose statement are it is understandable, inspiring, and memorable. After some effort, I was able to reduce mine to fifteen words. I also zeroed in on health as an out-of-balance factor impacting my ‘flow’ and learned new methods of eating, exercise and de-stressing. The final piece of the Hive Global Summit are the people. They are fascinating, from all over the world, and share a common desire to improve both themselves and the larger world. Discussions are extraordinary, interesting, and illuminating.

One example was a fifteen year old invited guest Joshua Gao, inventor of a fire extinguisher that uses sound waves to put out a forest fire. It detects a fire using infrared sensors, and automatically emits a beam of sound waves to the fire source to extinguish it. He recently won the Conrad International Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge was created by Nancy Conrad, the widow of Astronaut Pete Conrad who commanded the Apollo 12 mission in 1969. A high school student from Nashua, New Hampshire, Joshua has founded the SAFE company to market the technology to governments and corporations.

If you would like a rich, impactful, and life enriching experience, I encourage you to consider application to the Hive Global Summit in 2020. It will be held again at the 1440 Multiversity in the beautiful redwoods of Scotts Valley. 1440 was built by Silicon Valley unicorn, Scott Kriens, who founded the Juniper Networks.



STAY TUNED TO CLINTONEDAY.COM BLOG.  We have an extraordinary treat upcoming with coverage form the 2019 GLOBAL HIVE CONFERENCE IN SILCON VALLEY.  Hive is the community for leaders and entrepreneurs who are changing the world with 2,800 members in 130 countries.  This retreat is in the Santa Cruz mountains near Silicon Valley August 15-18th, and your editor will be in attendance.  We plan to highlight speakers, guests, and the stimulating innovation to come out of it.         HIVE GLS 2019 FLYER v13 (2).pdf =  on

Some of the speakers include Presidential candidate Mary Ann Williamson,   Mind-boggling!

How To Recruit Customers For Your Minimum Viable Product

Let’s talk about how we turn an audience into a customer base. And let’s start with how we don’t.

To give some context, I’ll ask a hypothetical question. Once you’ve spent all the time it takes to ideate, build, and perfect your minimum viable product, would you then head out into your neighborhood, taking your MVP from door to door to hawk your wares like the vacuum cleaner salesmen of old?

Absolutely not. But oddly enough, this is how a lot of entrepreneurs target the audience that they hope to turn into their first customers, the digital equivalent of it anyway. Find a lot of like-minded people gathered in one place on the Internet, hit them with a singular pitch and price point, then sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

I know. I used to do the same exact thing. In over 20 years creating and launching dozens of products, I’ve had to learn the lessons of customer acquisition the hard way — a path littered with expensive and time-consuming rejection.

The goal isn’t how many customers we can hit at once, it’s how much can we learn from each customer we hit. The solution is to go after initial customers one at a time, then tailor the pitch as we move on from individuals to groups.

Here’s how we break down who they are and what they need, how we sell them our MVP, and what we can learn from each of them.

Don’t know they have a problem

When we throw our product out to the Internet — the advertising platforms, social media sites, LinkedIn groups, etc. — the vast majority of our audience doesn’t know they have the problem we’re trying to solve. This is why a lot of cheesy ads start with a question like, “Are you tired of…(insert problem here)?”

This is the worst MVP audience to go after, even though it seems like the easiest and cheapest to reach.

In reality, this is the most expensive audience, because even with all of the algorithms to filter demographics and psychographics and interests and browsing history, there’s probably not a checkbox to select the audience that suffers from the exact problem you’re trying to solve. And if there is, the problem you’ve chosen is probably too broad to begin with. Either way, we’re paying for a lot of misfires.

There’s really no good way to sell an MVP to this audience, other than to start with that cheesy question. From the response, we can learn how much of our prospective customer segment thinks that they’re impacted by our problem, but that’s going to be a noisily inaccurate statistic that’s expensive to obtain, and it doesn’t tell us much about the validity of our solution.

Know they have a problem and are willing to solve it

This is a great audience to have, but it can be a hard one to find. We basically have to look for complainers — those people who actually are tired of (insert problem here). Sometimes they’ll group together, but most of the time we have to work backwards, and go looking for them in the context of a similar problem.

An example: At my current startup Spiffy, we started out doing mobile car washes on-demand through an app. One of the discoveries we made from polling our customers was that they used us primarily because they enjoyed the convenience and time savings of not having to go to the car wash. So we asked them where else they hated to go, and they overwhelmingly told us they hated going to the oil change places. So we rolled out an MVP to change oil the same way we did car washes. Huge win.

Now, our MVP audience was already in our customer base, but we had to learn why they were there first. Had we assumed (mistakenly) they were using us because they just liked things really clean, we might have instead (mistakenly) rolled out an MVP for mobile house cleaning or pet grooming, and misfired completely.

Know they have a problem and are unwilling to solve it

This is a tough nut to crack, but super valuable if we can crack it, because this audience is going to be a big part of our sustained growth down the road. These are the folks who are living with the problem we’re trying to solve, and not willing to pay for a solution, either because the problem isn’t painful enough or because the existing solutions aren’t cost-effective or frictionless enough.

So this is where our competitive advantage will come from.

We usually find this audience virally, in the same places we find the audience willing to solve the problem. But we sell this audience by stressing our competitive edge and justifying why they don’t have to live with the problem any longer.

Again, I’ll use my current startup as an example: Anyone can live with a dirty car, some can live with a dirtier car than others. We made it so easy, so cost-effective, and the results so good that this audience realized they didn’t have to live with a dirty car anymore.

Furthermore, as their unwillingness to solve the problem melts, we’re learning all sorts of things from them: Scheduling, frequency, packaging, pricing, upgrades, messaging, and the list goes on and on.

Already using a free variant of the solution

This is an outlier audience in the real world, it happens with a lot more frequency in software as a service. There may already be a contingent audience using a low-feature version of our product for free. And it may even be a low-feature version of our own MVP.

Much like the audience that doesn’t know they have a problem, this one is tricky, because it seems like a gold mine of cheap-to-find and easy-to-land customers, but it’s really just a special subset of two other audiences: The ones that don’t know they have a problem and the ones that know but are unwilling to solve it.

The free version sets up a challenge. We have to sell the audience by both fortifying their desire to fix the problem while also offering a solution that is worth the time and money to transition from the free solution. This is complex, I mean, it took me a while just to write that last sentence, let alone execute on it.

But again, crazy important to learn from, because we’re learning where and how much value our MVP really has.

Already paying for a solution and unhappy with that solution

In the short term, this is a great audience to chase. It’s where we’re going to disrupt the market. These are people who know the problem, need a solution, and are unhappy with the solution they have.

These are our competitors customers, and they can be swayed on anything from price to innovation. Just know that if it’s the former, they’ll be difficult to keep, and if it’s the latter, we can’t rest on the MVP, we have to keep innovating.

My recommendation here would not be to sell them on price, because like I said, even if that gets them to switch, it won’t keep them around. And we need them around because we can learn more from this audience than any other, not only in terms of what our MVP’s strengths are, but where we should go next.

To put it another way, these customers didn’t become unhappy because the product became too expensive, they became unhappy because the product stopped being worth what they were paying. They can help us chase innovation and maintain that value proposition for all of our customers.

Already paying for a solution and happy with that solution

OK, this audience is the holy grail, if we can convert them, because landing these customers is the difference between being a market competitor and the market leader.

These are also our competitors’ customers, but they’re the ones who are totally satisfied with the solution they have, and the only way they’re becoming our customers is if we show them something they hadn’t thought of before.

If we can show that kind of value to that kind of audience, it means we’re reshaping the industry, changing the game, whatever you want to call inventing the next generation of our business. It’s what we set out to do when we first got the idea for our product, and it’s what drove us all the way through the MVP process. It only stands to reason that this is the primary audience to target when building our customer base.

By Joe from Daily Medium online.