The Entrepreneur’s Curse

The entrepreneur can be defined as someone with a vision; someone who is willing to attempt the marshalling of resources that will transform that vision into a viable business reality. At the top of the list of characteristics for such a person is a total belief in their vision, an unfailing commitment to the myriad efforts involved, and a good deal of optimism to cope with the inevitable setbacks and unforeseen hurdles that will appear on their pathway to success.

Most entrepreneurs develop their vision based upon their own knowledge and experience. They can see – perhaps clearer than others – the need for this specific offering that they wish to bring to the market. They can see its many benefits and the value that it will deliver to prospective customers. And they are often right. However, in far too many cases, the fire doesn’t light. Their target market stalls or refuses to buy. Yet the entrepreneur’s vision is still burning bright and secure in the viewpoint that the market can truly benefit from the offering. And too often, and still with unfailing commitment and optimism, energy and resources are repeatedly expended in trying to convince their market to buy.

You will note several references to “vision” and “seeing”, and herein lies the entrepreneur’s curse – entrepreneurial myopia. And of course, entrepreneurs would not be who they are without their unfailing belief in their vision and a fiercely focused optimism to strive on down their chosen path. Yet these are also the characteristics that prevent them from seeing the total picture, missing in fact the most important part of the picture – their prospective customer’s buying journey.

And here’s the surprising bit, because again and again their prospects actually do believe in the offering and they understand the value it could bring to their organization. Yet they fail to buy. The reasons for failure are both numerous and – when you look closely at offerings in a specific marketplace – quite predictable. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial myopia tends to limit the vision only letting them see why their prospective customers should buy, while often preventing them from seeing why their customers don’t buy.

The prospective buyer does not share the same myopic focus on just that one offering. They are looking at multiple, often overwhelming numbers of things that they could invest in. It comes as a surprise to many entrepreneurs that they aren’t simply competing against competitive offerings but are competing for mind share and resources against a vast spectrum of alternatives including the deadliest of all – nothing, status quo. And finally, they are also having to overcome the many implications of a potential customer actually purchasing their offering. Implications such as change, risk, retraining and other factors that are associated with the successful adoption of a new offering.

It is indeed a fact that when a customer does not buy, it is rarely due to a lack of belief in the product offering. It is at this point that the entrepreneurial focus would be well advised to shift from “what they buy” to “how they buy”. Developing a market in today’s world demands an intricate knowledge of exactly what a prospective customer needs to commit to throughout the full course of the Customer Buying Journey. The market engagement strategy has to be able to foresee, mitigate and manage all of the hurdles at each step of the way. The customer must be supported throughout the journey and any anxieties they may have and decisions they must make cannot be trivialized.

The successful entrepreneur must switch viewpoint and see revenue generation from the Outside-In. They have to broaden their focus, put themselves in the shoes of their prospective customers and see the world as they do. They may even have to put aside their unfailing faith in their offering in order to understand the friction points and roadblocks in each customer’s buying journey. However once understood and a strategy developed, I do recommend they go back to their natural state of commitment and optimism in order to overcome the next set of hurdles that will no doubt appear along the way.

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