Just ask my wife: my opinion DOES NOT matter!!

Nobody will affirm this more loudly than Fran, my wife of (gasp) 36 years…”Bob’s opinion doesn’t matter!”

This is true both with domestic Dorf family decisions and even more importantly, when it comes to my opinion about your startup!

I was reminded just how little my opinion means during a wonderful series of discussions this week at Wharton and at Philadelphia’s hottest co-working space, Benjamin’s Desk, where in informal chats with a variety of entrepreneurs, many were soliciting my opinion.  My opinion is no more valuable than any other professor’s, advisor’s or investor’s. The only opinions that should drive your startup are those of the only people whose opinions matter, your customers, since they’ll provide revenue and momentum to your startup and I won’t!

Your job as the founder is to create a fluid system of soliciting and processing that feedback on a consistent, ongoing basis. You don’t respond to every customer opinion…only to emerging dominant patterns where, for example, a clear majority of “highly likely” buyers say they’d be more likely to buy if you offered the software on a SAAS basis, or at a different price, or with these features those highly-likely buyers would value greatly if added to the product.  It’s your job to continuously process that feedback, and to monitor the data stream to look for newly-emerging patterns or direction. Only when you’ve seen a consistent, important pattern do you pivot, or change one of the key components of your business model based on that new customer-driven information.

When can non-customers help?

A “non-customer” opinion of your startup only matters because it’s fueled by two important resources:

  • A library of dumb startup mistakes the observer has personally made or seen. (In my case, it’s quite a collection.)  Hopefully this learning can save you time and mistakes by pointing you to past sins of commission or omission, so you can learn about and avoid the mistakes rather than actually make the same mistake painfully yet again
  • Opinions based on exposure to scores if not thousands of startups and their experiences, good and bad, which can provide guidance for the next startup that rolls down the track.

So keep asking everyone you can talk to, but always listen the hardest when talking to a potential customer!

NEXT: How to process piles of feedback.

Bob Dorf speaks with, coaches and trains startups in lean customer development all over the world. He blogs at dorfonstartups.com and tweets @bobdorf.

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