The Top 3 Questions Experienced Entrepreneurs Ask
Teaching Startup — a project to bring real, insightful advice and answers to every entrepreneur at an affordable price point — has grown steadily since its pilot last year. We just delivered the 50th issue of our premium newsletter, and we’re about to release a new version of our web app.
We’ve gotten hundreds of entrepreneurs’ questions, and we’ve responded with dozens of answers, all related to starting, building, and growing various businesses of various types and at various stages.
So after reading through all these questions and answering a lot of them myself, one thing I can say with confidence is that there is a marked difference between the types of questions inexperienced entrepreneurs ask and the types that experienced entrepreneurs ask.
All of the questions are valid, of course, but one thing we’ve learned to do at Teaching Startup is to get to the right question. Because once we get you to the right question, we can give an entrepreneur — maybe not the right answer — but a good, useful, and actionable answer.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s start with the top three types of questions INEXPERIENCED entrepreneurs ask.
What do you think about my idea?
I love it. Your idea is awesome. It could be exactly the kind of thing that the world needs right now and people everywhere might pay a lot for it. But that has no bearing on whether or not you’ll be successful, and me telling you how much I love your idea matters even less.
That said, there are entire cottage industries, some of them quite well known, that will gladly take your money to validate your idea. When we stop asking people if they believe in our ideas, the advice we seek becomes a lot more honest.
How do I get my product built?
Every time I hear this question, the real question behind it is: “How do I find the money to hire someone to build the product for me?” One of the hardest, scariest, and most painful parts of being an entrepreneur is navigating the huge gap between idea and execution. It’s the single reason that keeps most would-be-entrepreneurs from becoming right-now-entrepreneurs.
But that gap is actually getting smaller and smaller every day. When we stop asking “How do I get this built?” and start asking “How do I build this?” the answers are far more actionable.
How do I find customers?
This is actually a great question and it should be the first question every entrepreneur asks themselves every day. There are a million different ways to find customers, like, literally more than a million. The problem is that no two ways are alike. And the other problem is that no single path will work the same way for two different startups.
There is no single solution for automatic customers — not social media, not viral marketing, not search engine optimization — none.
So what types of questions do the EXPERIENCED entrepreneurs ask?
What do you think about my plan?
There are great ideas and awful ideas. There are great plans and awful plans. Here’s the thing. Whether or not an idea is great or awful is never truly determined until it plays all the way out. You just don’t know if an idea is good or not until it works or not.
But you can spot bad plans way before they get executed. And good plans usually work every time, regardless of what idea the plan is being carried out on.
How do I make my product better?
If an entrepreneur believes in his or her product, they also believe that they’re only scratching the surface of the value that their product can provide. Always.
Entrepreneurs aren’t so much passionate about their solution as they’re obsessive about the problem it solves. They’re the kind of person who wants to play the game over and over again to see if they can score more points, and they will discover and exploit every single nuance in their solution to solve the problem better the next time.
How do I convert more customers?
Before an experienced entrepreneur even thinks about something minimum and viable, they already know who their customer is and where to find them. The trick is converting them. If you were able to go back in time 20 years and hand someone an iPhone, they would likely laugh at your limited and hard to use laptop.
Converting isn’t finding. It’s positioning, messaging, and educating.
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