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Entrepreneurs, Please Do Not Reinvent The Wheel

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Entrepreneurship has a very distorted view these days. Everyone thinks of visionary leaders who created something that no one had ever seen before, becoming commonly taken names in every household when they think of entrepreneurs. It is true that the names that are taken in every household, like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk, have done great things and have achieved this level of notoriety but this is not true for 99 percent of the entrepreneurs today. Their success is based not on creating an earth-shattering new product from scratch, but on learning what their customers want, making user-centric adjustments to existing products or services and providing it for them.

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You know names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk because they created things their respective markets had never seen before: the first computer with a graphical UI; a versatile operating system for the masses; and a zero-emissions car that combines outstanding range and luxury features, and is the first successful new American car company since Ford. These leaders built their companies and their reputations on the backs of unparalleled product innovation, but that is far from the only path to entrepreneurial success. Assuming otherwise ignores the millions of business owners and the vast majority of brands across the world that have delivered immense value to customers without getting their names in the history books.

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There is almost an infinite amount of existing products and services out there today that the market has already proven it demands, in some form or fashion. However, many entrepreneurs ignore the chance to capitalize on ways to simply improve those offerings and deliver better service to customers. Over the past decade, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry has exploded. As a result, many new entrepreneurs have backgrounds as trained software developers. These founders often get themselves into trouble when they become overly concerned with creating a product that has “revolutionary” features instead of just responding to their customers’ needs and market realities. They become too consumed with “innovating” and forget to listen to what customers actually want.

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It is very easy to know what the customers want. It turns out that asking them, without a predetermined answer in mind, is a good place to start. This technique is part of a process known as “effectual reasoning,” and it has been the basis of many successful businesses throughout history. If it is feasible, all you have to do is ask the customer if they would be willing to buy a product that eases this pain and what it would be worth to them. If the answer is yes, then your nascent company has made its first informal sale.

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