La motivation entrepreneuriale

La motivation entrepreneuriale

 

Ça vous arrive de réaliser qu’une série de rencontres, qui à première vue sont sans lien entre elles, ont un fil conducteur très concret? C’est ce qui m’est arrivé récemment.

Dans une période de 48 heures j’ai assisté à l’enregistrement d’un podcast[1], dont la thématique était la responsabilité sociale vs la rentabilité, ai rencontré un mentoré où nous avons discuté de l’avancement de son projet, et ai assisté à un meetup entrepreneurial où un conférencier parlait de la procrastination[2]. Ce n’est que quelques heures après que je me suis rendu compte que tous ces sujets avaient une même trame de fond; la motivation entrepreneuriale.

Nos valeurs comme source de motivation entrepreneuriale

Motivation entrepreneuriale - Baker Marketing Nous savons tous, en tant qu’entrepreneur ce que c’est que d’être motivé, et encore plus, de perdre notre motivation (ça nous arrive tous à l’occasion).  Ce qui nous échappe, pour la plupart d’entre nous, c’est d’où vient notre motivation. Quelles sont les sources qui l’alimentent?

Dans le cadre du podcast, l’animateur demande aux entrepreneurs ce qui les motive à agir de manière socialement responsable dans les situations où cela impacte leur profitabilité négativement. La réponse se résume aux valeurs fondamentales qui animent les entrepreneurs.

Il en ressort également que  leurs valeurs sont responsables, en majeure partie, de leur persévérance lorsque tout va mal ou lorsque leurs décisions sont attaquées de toute part.

Une constatation importante de la part des entrepreneurs est qu’il doit s’agir de LEURS valeurs et non celles que la société ‘’imposent’’ aux entrepreneurs.

Lorsqu’une entreprise adopte des valeurs bien vues socialement mais qui ne reflètent pas étroitement les valeurs des fondateurs (principaux gestionnaires) elle ne sera pas motivée à agir éthiquement (en accord avec ses valeurs) lorsque le coût sera trop élevé. Il en va de même, dans les grandes entreprises, lorsque ses employés ne partagent  pas les valeurs corporatives. L’expression utilisée par un des entrepreneurs lors du podcast illustre ceci très clairement. Il a dit ‘’À un moment donné, le miroir craque’’.

C’est alors qu’on voit apparaître des comportements d’entreprises totalement dissonants des messages véhiculés par celles-ci.

On a qu’à penser à ce qui se passe présentement avec, entre autres, les grandes sociétés pétrolières, de télécommunications ou pharmaceutiques.

 

L’objectif comme source de motivation entrepreneuriale

motivation entrepreneuriale - Baker Marketing Il n’y a en soit rien de mal à se fixer des objectifs pour se motiver. Ça fonctionne plus souvent qu’autrement.

Le problème survient lorsque l’atteinte de nos objectifs devient la principale, voir la seule, source de notre motivation.

L’adage qui dit La fin justifie les moyens met alors la scène pour des comportements non éthiques.

Afin d’atteindre notre objectif, nous sommes alors prêts à agir ‘’temporairement’’ à l’encontre de nos valeurs.

Le hic est que le chemin pour atteindre nos objectifs représente la quasi-totalité du temps passé au travail.

Nous en venons donc qu’à oublier nos valeurs afin de faire ce qu’il faut pour atteindre nos objectifs.

Je n’ai pas besoin de vous citer d’études, bien qu’il y en ait quelques unes, pour vous convaincre que d’agir à l’encontre de ses valeurs au quotidien est épuisant, voir drainant.  C’est aussi une très bonne recette pour s’assurer d’être malheureux (ou du moins peu satisfait de notre situation).

 

Les motivations entrepreneuriales intrinsèques vs extrinsèques

motivation entrepreneuriale - Baker Marketing Lors de ma rencontre avec mon mentoré, nous avons discuté de l’avancement de son projet, qui stagnait au moment de notre rencontre précédente. Ce dernier réalise que sa motivation initiale (faire beaucoup d’argent) n’était plus assez forte pour le faire avancer. De plus, il se présentait à lui de plus en plus de choix où le meilleur, afin d’atteindre son objectif, le rendait sérieusement inconfortable.

Il a donc cherché une autre source de motivation. Ce qu’il a trouvé en identifiant les valeurs sur lesquelles il veut que son projet repose. Elles ont été puisées à partir de ses propres valeurs. Cette prise de conscience lui a non seulement permis de reprendre son momentum entrepreneurial, mais elle a significativement changé le plan qu’il s’était fait pour atteindre ses objectifs (dont un reste faire beaucoup d’argent). Il réalise que la façon d’atteindre ses objectifs revêt une importance tout aussi grande, sinon plus, que l’atteinte de ses objectifs. Un quotidien plus agréable, où il se sent confortable avec ses décisions,  impacte positivement sa motivation.

Ce qu’il faut retenir est que les sources intrinsèques de motivation, telles nos valeurs fondamentales, assurent une motivation entrepreneuriale plus forte et plus pérenne que les sources extrinsèques, tels les objectifs, incitatifs ou valeurs qui ne sont pas les nôtres.

Les sources extrinsèques de motivation sont utiles et bénéfiques dans la mesure où ce ne sont pas les seules ou principales sources de motivation.

Dans la seconde partie de ce billet, nous examinerons de plus près l’identification de nos valeurs et leur impact sur la raison principale de l’échec entrepreneurial.

[1] L’épisode sera rendue public le 4 octobre sur le site www.lesderangeants.com

[2] Le conférencier est Mathias Durand de www.procastination.com pendant le meetup de Digital Entrepreneurs

Business Experiments: A better way to manage your business?

Business Experiments: A better way to manage your business?

In our last post we looked at various management approaches to reduce risks. One of them pertained to business experiments. In this post, we’ll dig a bit deeper to better understand this approach.

You have most likely heard of business experiments. The Harvard Business Review, as well as many other business management publications, published multiple articles on the topic in the last few years.   They were mostly in the context of innovation.

What is a business experiment?

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing If you have not, a business experiment is simply testing a concept (idea, program, process, design, product, strategy, etc.) with stakeholders (customers, suppliers, distributors, employees, etc.). The experiment’s goal is to provide pertinent data to assist with decision making (usually with go/no go decisions or sometimes fine-tuning).

So yes, you do know what a business experiment is. It’s been around for, well, pretty much ever. Now you’re asking yourself; Why this article is drawing my attention to it?

The reason is that business experiments are no longer used as an occasional management tool, they are transforming into the way businesses are managed.

Why are companies experimenting at an increasing rate?

Business experiment - Baker Marketing As we mentioned, business experiments are used to collect data that assists management with decision-making.

Decision-making in the business world is becoming a more demanding task (to say the least).

  • Companies are significantly leaner (i.e. less resources and more work for everyone, including managers).
  • The amount of information available, from secondary sources, is enough to make any manager’s head spin.
  • There is a higher supply than demand for managers hence making bad decisions is a riskier proposition for your longevity in a given company than ever.
  • In many sectors, markets are moving at a faster pace than ever before with competitors coming in from everywhere and customers’ choices exploding.

Hence managers are turning to ways to reduce the time and the risk involved to make the best possible decisions.

Running a business experiment to gather pertinent and timely data quickly answers the needs of over-burdened managers to reduce the risks of the decisions they make.

This explains, in part, why organisations are experimenting. What explains the increasing rate at which they are doing it, and transforming it into a management approach, has more to do with the following reasons:

  • It’s cheaper and faster than ever to run business experiments (many can be done in minutes with free tools)
  • An increasing number of employees or outside consultants have the skills to run experiments, analyse and interpret the collected data
  • The costs to store, process and communicate the data/result are very low (compared to a decade ago) and falling constantly.

Business experiments and the Lean Startup framework

So how does an organisation go about implementing business experiments as a managerial approach? There is no one way to do so. There are however experimentation frameworks out there that can structure your approach.

One of these is the Lean Startup framework.

The base of Lean Startup is the experiment. The Lean Startup experiment is based on the scientific experiment model. It follows a build, measure, learn process.

Build Measure Learn - Baker Marketing

 

Build (designing your experiment)

Building your experiment is a 3 step process

 1. Identify the critical assumption associated with the concept to be tested

When you stop to think about it, there are thousands of assumptions we could test to assist with decision making when managing a business. If we tested all of our assumptions there would be no time or other resources left to run the business. Hence, you only want to test the critical assumptions. The ones that, if not validated, pose a business risk that you (or your organisation) are not willing to take.

2. Transform your critical assumption into a hypothesis statement

Your critical assumption was a thought you put into words. Your hypothesis statement is one sentence that can be validated (or invalidated).

3. Design the experiment that will validate (or invalidate) your hypothesis

Designing your experiment is only limited by your (and/or your team’s) imagination. The way you choose to render the concept of your hypothesis (how you present it or illustrate it) is called your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)[1].

An important part of the MVP is the minimum part of it. In the design of your experiment, you will be aiming at spending the least amount of resources in order to obtain the maximum amount of learnings from your experiment.

This doesn’t necessarily mean bootstrapping your experiment. It simply means that you will make sure that whatever learnings you need to get from your experiment, you get by using the least amount of resources possible.

This can mean it will cost you nothing but a few minutes of the time of one person or tens of thousands of dollars, if that’s the only way to go about getting the information you need. Of course, the cost of your experiment must be proportionate to the financial risk associated with it.

Measure

The reason you are making the experiment is to get data that will help you with your decision making. Hence, you want that data to be reliable.

This is where you need a bit of knowledge about primary data gathering. You need to make sure the data you collect is not biased. You won’t be looking to get statistical quality data. That would take too long, cost too much and be an over kill for your purpose.

You’ll simply need the clear direction that your data in headed for.

In business experimentation instead of gathering a lot of data once, you gather a small amount of data repetitively. Although not as precise as statistical data it does provide you with a sufficient amount of information to de-risk, to a great extent, your decision. It is also a more suited approach to an environment that changes rapidly.

When deciding on the data you will be capturing in your experiment, remember these three important rules.

Your data should be:

Actionable

If it doesn’t go in the direction you thought it would then you can change something in your business strategy or product or program that will make the data go in the direction you want.

Accountable

You need to be able to re-produce the exact same experiment, in similar conditions and get similar results. For example, if you are testing the design of a snow shovel and are doing it during the storm of the century, the data you collect won’t be accountable.

Accessible

The more people who interpret the data you collect, the deeper and richer your learnings will be. So make sure that the data captured during your business experiments is shared throughout your organisation. Ensure that everyone knows they are welcome to share their interpretations on the data. Making your experiments, the data collected and the results accessible throughout your organisation will also accelerate business experiments process as some parts/resources of one experiment can be used for others.

The more experience one has at conducting experiments, the faster and more accurately they are done.

Learn

This part of business experiments, although it may seem like the easiest, is the hardest.  Learning means you are either

  • absorbing completely new information (rarely the case) or
  • you are changing in some way (sometimes drastically) already stored information in your brain

The second type of learning is the hardest. The more contradictory the data you have is to the one you previously had, the more difficult it is to learn from it.

This stored information in your brain will create a filter that will impact how you interpret new data.

Also, the more resources that has already been invested in a project, the more difficult it is to pivot on a previous course of action.

The benefits of using business experiments to manage

Business Experiment - Baker Marketing The main benefit, as mentioned previously, is to reduce the risk of your business decisions. This in turn will minimise your losses on various projects.

Another benefit, that is not obvious, is the improvement in work relationships.  This happens for multiple reasons.

First, employees get a sense of empowerment. If they submit ideas to upper management with supporting empirical data, they know their idea will be considered.

Also, managers don’t need to spend as much time justifying their decisions. They let the data speak for itself. They do however need to include questioning the quality of the data into their process.

Finally, as mentioned, organisations that use business experiments on a daily basis to manage usually encourage employees to share the results of their experiments. This not only improves internal communication and efficiency it also creates an environment where mistakes, that bring new learnings, are valued.

This type of environment is essential to not only foster innovation but pro-activity.

Getting started with business experiments

Business experiment - Baker MarketingIf you think that using business experiments may be a profitable management approach for your business, start with one project (which will be a meta experiment) during which all higher risk decisions will be taken with supporting data. The project you select should be one that has high inherent risk within it (like launching a product in a new and different market). It should also be a type of project that is somewhat recurrent in your organisation. This will help you have a baseline scenario in order to compare the results of the meta experiment.  Make sure to identify the metrics you’ll be evaluating before starting your meta experiment.

Some metrics (there are many others) you may want to look at would be:

  • How long the project took from start to finish
  • Overall budget
  • What % of the initial planed output was achieved
  • Variables pertaining to team cohesion
  • Variables pertaining to employee (the ones who worked on the project directly and indirectly) satisfaction
  • ROI projected vs achieved on a timeline (3, 6, 12, 24 months)

Implementing any new management approach takes a while. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe. You need to…yes you got it…experiment and find the approach best suited for your organisation.

If you need coaching or help getting started with your first experiment Baker Marketing can definitely help.

[1] Although MVP most often refers to a prototype of a product, it also means the representation of your hypothesis you will present to participants of your experience.

Managing Business Risks Better in Fast Markets

Managing Business Risks Better in Fast Markets

On Lean Startup, Business Experimentation and Data Driven Organisations

 

Entrepreneurs know that managing a business today isn’t anything like it was 10 years ago.

Business risks are still there but managing them got a lot harder.

New market realities and business risks

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing Today’s new market realities such as:

  • Break-neck speed technological progress (specially IP related)
  • Globalisation
  • Lowering of barriers to entry in most sectors
  • Exponential amount of available data
  • Plummeting costs of storing/processing/crunching data
  • Omnipresence of social media

Impact every aspect of running a business.

Burying your head in the sand and ignoring these new realities prevents you from hedging the serious business risks they represent.

Risks such as:

  • Inability to see new competitors coming fast enough to adjust
  • Having higher input/production costs than your competitors
  • Fast changing customer needs/habits/preferences
  • Developing and marketing unwanted/non optimal products or services
  • Sinking money into ineffective sales and marketing
  • Inadequate/useless employee training
  • Recruiting employees with the wrong skill set

Any of these situations, if not managed for long periods, can put you out of business.

Combinations of these risks managed badly, even for a short time, can have the same effect.

New management approaches to better manage risks

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing Old management approaches developed over 30 years ago are no longer suited to manage business risks effectively in current market conditions.

New management approaches, techniques and tools, developed specifically to deal with current market realities are much better suited to manage today’s business risks.

Lean Startup, business experimentation and management based on data (resulting in data driven organisations) are such management approaches.

In a nutshell, here are what they are about and how they can help you manage your business risks.

 

Lean Startup

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing Overall management approach, based on the scientific method, best suited for projects (including starting a new business) that involve market uncertainties or volatility.

It uses fast iterative business experimentation to gather data in order to prove hypotheses and lucrative market existence before launching a full product/service. It uses concepts from other management theories such at lean production, customer management, design thinking and agile development.

It also applies innovation accounting to reduce the financial risk associated with high risk projects.

 

Risk management aspect

It will help your organisation avoid or manage the following risks

  • Inability to see new competitors coming fast enough to adjust
  • Fast changing customer needs/habits/preferences
  • Developing and marketing unwanted/non optimal products or services
  • Sinking money into ineffective sales and marketing
  • Starting a company/organisation that isn’t viable in the market

Business experimentation

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing Business experimentation is simply doing small scale versions or parts of a project by testing it out first. You then gather data to support your original plan before going forward with your project.

The subjects taking part in these experiments can be any stakeholder in an organisation such as suppliers, employees, customers, etc.

It is often used to convince the purse holders in an organisation to invest in a project or idea.

Whenever possible, it is done with a scientific approach gathering solid data.

Risk management aspect

When done correctly, business experimentation can help to reduce, but not eliminate, almost all types of business risks.

 

Management with data (for data driven organisations)

Lean Startup - Baker Marketing Management with data consists of making all decisions, whenever possible, with data. This data can be of secondary (existing data) or primary sources (comes from analytics, accounting, connected objects or experiments). The data is both external and internal to an organisation.

                Risk management aspect

Just like experimentation, which is a necessary aspect of a data driven organisation, management based on data can help alleviate all types of business risks.

Many organisations, especially larger ones, have been using data for management purposes for decades now. This approach is now accessible to small organisations thanks to significantly lower costs of gathering, storing and treating data so it can be useful for decision-making. It does however require a skill set that is not yet prevalent in the workforce.

 

As you can see these approaches are not distinct from one another. Data driven organisations that fully apply management with data need to be experiment based to gather primary data. Experiment based organisation that apply the approach to new product/service or existing ones, that they wish to keep pertinent in the market, will need a Lean Startup approach.

Lean Startup, business experimentation and management with data are, by far, the most prevalent new management approaches helpful to reduce business risks in current market environments. They are not the only ones.  Although many business schools teach (sometimes badly) some or all of these new approaches, many still don’t. Hence you’re mostly on your own to research and learn about them.

A good place to go learn about new management approaches are local Meetups and conferences such as; Lean Startup Circles, Data Driven Meetups and business conferences (such as the Lean Startup Conference, the Intrapreneurship Conference, C2 Montreal or C2 Melbourne).

Transforming your business to use these management approaches is a long term project. In many cases, it requires a shift in the corporate culture. Hence, you should start now.

If you are just starting your business, start it on the right foot by using a management approach that will enable you to properly manage the risks of doing business in today’s fast-paced environments.

Market Intelligence in Competitve Fast-Paced Markets

Market Intelligence in Competitve Fast-Paced Markets

If you are starting a company in global fast-paced markets where the competition will be coming from everywhere, or even harder, transforming a long-existing company that is now facing global competition, you need to read this.

In the last few years globalisation increased the pace of innovation in most markets. Hence, predicting future consumer behaviours with traditional market research tools and techniques is not only difficult, it is now nearly impossible.

The yearly market study, based on historical data, has long been the tool on which a large portion of the important decisions have been based on. Although still useful to get an overall picture on your industry, historical data is not suited for the important decision making job in fast-paced markets that are highly competitive.

In order to make quick, pertinent decisions efficiently, you need a different type of information. Given there are many ocean’s worth of information out there, you need to know which information to focus on to ensure you are at the top of your decision-making game.

The market information you don’t need

Statistical market data

Customer insight - Baker Marketing Traditionally the first thing one did when doing a market research was to ‘’size the market’’.  You’d go to your local library and find census data to identify how many people (or companies)[1] fit in your customer segments. This data was anywhere from one to 5 years old.

Then you’d look at the socio-demographic variables and consumption habits attached to this segment. This data was usually at least 2 to 3 years old. Even when paying big money for market studies done by the big market research firms, you still get information that is, at the very best, 9-12 months old.

This outdate information can send you in a hard concrete wall when you launch products/services that are already outdated when they hit the market. In fast-paced markets this is an almost certain kiss of death; one that will have you spinning and spending all your (and often borrowed) resources, including time and energy, until none are left.

Irrelevant data

Customer insight - Baker Marketing It sounds trite but irrelevant market data, which used to be a small nuisance, can now paralyse a company’s decision making process or at the very least slow it down significantly.

Thanks to the internet, the proliferation of market data applications, tools and connected objects, the amount of market information available is mind boggling. Hence taking the time (and having the expertise) so only (or almost only) relevant data comes in from your pipelines is essential.

The market information you need

This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Different organisations will need to focus on different types of information. With this in mind, I’ll elaborate on two of the most common types of information needed to make daily decisions in fast-paced markets.

Customer behaviour information

You need to collect this information throughout your customers’ lifecycle.

  • Before they become customers (potential customers – take a look at this previous post to understand the different stages)
  • As they are becoming customers (on boarding)
  • During the time they are customers (active customers)
  • After they finish being your customers ( former customers – focusing on the ones who went to the competition or a substitute solution)

The following table will give you an idea of the various techniques/tools used to gather this information at each stage.

Customer insight tools - Baker Marketing

Click for larger image

Competitive landscape information

Customer insight - Baker Marketing In fast-paced markets one of the best predictor of change in customer behaviour (and often future revenue decline) is new innovative competitors in the market.

These innovators will bring more efficient technologies, new processes, and better/different value propositions in the market, most often at an equal or cheaper price.  These are all heavy influencers of customer behaviours.

Ideally, you would want to know what competitors are coming into your market before they get there. This isn’t always possible but the investment made (not necessarily very big) to keep as informed as possible will yield some of your most useful market information.

These are some places to find information on upcoming competitors:

  • Industry blogs/webzines/magazines
  • Accelerators alumni or cohort lists
  • VC (venture capitalists) investment lists
  • National patent office websites
  • Social media

Don’t forget, your competition is global so extend your search to countries where competitors are most likely to come from.

Acting on the information you collect

Customer insight - Baker Marketing Gathering the right information is not enough of course. You need to make it useful for decision-making purposes.
Before you get to the decision making part, there is an entire path that needs to be followed.  The path entails the following:

  • Processing and storing the data
  • Analysing the data
  • Reporting it
  • Diffusing it to the right decision-makers at the right time
  • Interpreting the crunched data, and finally
  • Quickly acting on it

Each of these steps is the subject of a multitude of books and graduate university programs. Many of these steps require different tools, processes and expertise. The task is daunting for certain. In turbulent markets, it is unfortunately essential for your organisation’s survival. As I often tell entrepreneurs I work with the only way to eat an elephant is to start with the first bite.

Where to start

Customer insight - Baker Marketing If you’re building a sky-scraper, you won’t start digging a hole with a shovel. You’ll get the equipment, expertise to run that equipment and (implied) processes that make you as efficient as possible to dig the hole.

What you won’t do however is to rent every single tool and piece of equipment you need for the entire project on day 1.

Hence, when you are starting your company or re-inventing it, you’ll need to not only get the right tools, expertise and processes in place to act quickly but also do it in the right sequence and get your timing right. Just in time is the way to go on this one.

Again, there is no recipe or one size-fits-all tool that will answer your needs. You’ll initially need to dig around and look for applications that will help you do whatever tasks you need to accomplish to set your market information based decision system. There will be trials, errors and some frustrations along the way. You will become intimately familiar with the term API[2].

Eventually, when the time is right (and it makes financial sense), you’ll migrate towards large integrated software solutions and experience a different set of frustrations.   There are no ‘’nothing but blue sky’’ solutions to do this that I know of. I would also be very weary of anyone trying to sell me one.

Organisations, big and small, have traditionally based their important decisions on market studies (I should know I have done hundreds of them). These market studies are no longer the right management tools to keep your competitive edge in fast-paced markets.

Market research and information management tools that allow you to acquire and maintain constant intimate knowledge of your customers (current and potential) are now essential to making the right decisions for your organisation.

Fast-paced markets that are global and highly competitive require a different type of information, a different approach and different decision making tools in order to make timely decisions.   Fast-paced markets require fast-paced decision making ability. Do you have the right tools, processes and competences in your organisation to enable this?

[1] If you are serving B2B markets and your customers are mid to large size companies this is still a valuable approach

[2] Application programming interface: A string of software code that enable two applications to communicate with each other.

3 Steps to Understanding Customer Needs

3 Steps to Understanding Customer Needs

The core of every business organisation’s mission is to answer customer needs.  In order to do so you must first identify and understand them.

Understanding your customers’ needs is essential but superficial knowledge is not enough to ensure your organisation’s profitability. To achieve product/market fit, the point where you answer needs better than your competitors, you must get to a deeper level of understanding of those needs.

Benefits of understanding customer needs

An added bonus to mastering customer needs (and providing a solution that fulfills them) is that every marketing dollar spent will yield higher returns than those of your competitors, who don’t have the same depth of knowledge.

A deeper level of understanding your customers’ needs will also ensure an overall better customer experience, which we already saw in a previous post on the customer experience journey, leads to higher profitability.

Ok, so now that you are convinced understanding customer needs is in your organisation’s best interest, the question you may be asking is how to go about mastering them.

First you have to identify the needs you will be fulfilling (hint; don’t stop at the needs attached directly to your product/service, also look at the ones surrounding the entire customer experience). Once you have zoomed in on the needs to fulfill, you must not only understand the needs but the whole story around them.[1] This process requires lots of effort, time and knowledge of data gathering techniques. It isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

As a marketer a huge part of my role, aside from finding the right customers, is to identify and understand their needs. Over the years, I learned that there are three steps to any quest aiming to either identify or understand customers’ needs.

Those steps are; Listen, observe, and empathise

Listen

customer needs - Baker MarketingThe very first thing you should do when you have a business idea is to talk informally with potential customers. This mostly means listen to their answers.   It also helps you figure out who your early adopters are. If it’s not possible for you to talk directly to potential customers, find people who know your potential customers inside out, and talk with them.

Don’t forget to set objectives for your conversation. Examples of conversation objectives are; to see whether the needs you think exist actually do, how they are being filled and the relative importance of those needs. In order to maximise the amount of information you take in, not only do you have to limit how much talking you will do, but you need the proper mindset. Your mind should be open and devoid of as many filters as possible. Always remember that explaining your project in length and your view of the world is just taking time away from achieving your goal. Listen.

On a side note, many of the entrepreneurs I meet are worried that someone will steal their idea before they get a chance to develop it. Unless you have a truly patentable solution (very few are), and potential customers can either beat you to market (they already operate a company in the same field) or spill the beans (to an existing competitor), you have nothing to worry about. Honestly, initial business ideas are very rarely marketable. Even if they were, almost no one wants to put in the blood, sweat, tears and go through the hell that starting a new business entails. Furthermore, even if they did, they’d most likely end up with a completely different business than yours in the end. Lastly if the threat of theft is real, there are still ways to explore the needs of potential corporate customers without spilling your own beans.

Please do not let the fear of someone stealing your business idea prevent you from engaging with potential customers.

Observe

Customer needs - Baker MarketingObservation is essential to identify less obvious needs and understand all pertinent customer needs at a deeper level. Asking potential customers won’t yield the information you seek because people don’t or can’t always tell you the truth.

There are many categories of observation techniques.

 

Natural observation

Natural observation techniques allow you to observe your potential customers while they are naturally fulfilling the needs you want to address. Ideally, without them noticing you too much so their behaviours are not altered.

Such observation experiments will yield huge amounts of customer knowledge. Hence you need to ensure you set observation goals for your experiments. Your observation goals can pertain not only to your subjects’ actions but also their interactions, environments, and the tools they use.

You will most likely need to repeat such experiments many times to take in all the knowledge you will need. Alternatively, you can task multiple people to observe the same situation while giving them different observation goals.

Two of my favorite natural observation techniques are shadowing and A day in the life.[2]

Directed observation

These techniques are associated with a goal of understanding a specific thought process or behaviour in a given circumstance.

They require putting the customer in a specific situation or assigning him, or her, a task and then observing. This can be followed by a question period to help interpret what you observed. It can be done face to face, remotely with cameras or on the web (such as A/B testing).

Third person observation

This technique is used in addition to one of the previous ones where the observer is someone who has a vision of the world that is significantly different from you or anyone in your industry. This technique yields much richer interpretation/insights from the data you collect.

Empathise

Customer needs - Baker MarketingWhenever possible, put yourself in your customers’ shoes or, even better; take the time to get to know some of your favorite customers personally. This will enable a relationship of trust and maybe even friendship (personal bonus for you) to develop over time.

Get involved in activities or causes your customers are passionate about. This will give you an even deeper understanding of their values and what is important to them.

Sharing your customers’ values is a requirement to attract them into your community.  If you are unsure of what I am referring to here, see this previous post on community marketing.

The 360 view of customer needs

Customer needs - Baker MarketingApplying all of these techniques to understand your customers’ needs is required to get a 360 degree view of them. Using many different perspectives to master your customers’ needs will yield rich and actionable information. It will also facilitate innovation in your organisation.

 

Customer Feedback Flow

Customer needs - Baker MarketingStriving to understand customer needs is a continuous process. Set up processes and assign resources in your organisation to make it an integral part of your business activities.

These processes can be as simple as a quick questionnaire you send out on a regular basis, or an automatic feedback one, after a certain task is completed.  Analytics reports, comments on social medias summaries or a managed (live or online) community feedback or observation reports are all valid continuous feedback processes that can yield precious information on your customers’ needs.

Be aware that this feedback is highly valuable to your organisation, if you act on it. Hence, reward your customers adequately (often a simple thank you is enough) for sharing their thoughts and concerns.

Mastering the understanding of customer needs is no small task.  Your rewards for listening, observing and empathising with your customers, will be a tighter product/market fit, greater customer satisfaction and higher profitability.

[1] Needs are always dependant other factors. E.g. The need for a given medicine will be dependant on experiencing specific symptoms at a level that requires relief and not being allergic or prone to adverse effects to said medicine.

[2] The following book describes these techniques : This is Service Design Thinking – M. Stickdorn, J. Schneider et al. – John Wiley & Son

Mentorat de démarrage – Leçons apprises

Mentorat de démarrage – Leçons apprises

Dans le billet précédent, nous avons vu un bref sommaire de la première année d’existence de Mentors Montréal.  Nous avons dressé un portrait des mentors et des entrepreneurs ainsi que du fonctionnement de la communauté.

Dans ce billet, nous nous attarderons sur les leçons apprises à ce jour. Je vous raconterai également l’histoire d’une entrepreneure en devenir et de l’impact que Mentors Montréal a eu dans sa vie. Enfin, des suggestions de pistes à suivre, afin d’améliorer l’offre de services de mentorat pour les entrepreneurs en devenir à Montréal, seront offertes.

 

Mentorat de démarrage - Baker MarketingLeçons apprises

On peut catégoriser les types de questions provenant des entrepreneurs en devenir en trois niveaux.

Informations ponctuelles

Il s’agit de questions du type Pourriez-vous me recommander une personne dans l’organisme ou l’entreprise X ou Dois-je facturer la TPS/TVQ dans telle circonstance?

Ce type de question fait généralement partie d’un processus de recherche d’information déjà amorcé et fait souvent appel au réseau du mentor ou à  une connaissance spécifique d’information.

Elles peuvent être répondues directement.

Le mentor peut aussi utiliser ce type de questions pour aborder l’importance du réseau d’affaires et s’assurer que le mentoré déploie des efforts adéquats pour construire son propre réseau.

Acquisition de connaissances/compétences

Ces questions sont du type Où puis-je trouver du financement? Ou Connaissez-vous un bon comptable, avocat ou autre professionnel?

Ce sont les questions les plus fréquentes. L’entrepreneur fera face presque quotidiennement à ce genre de questionnement tout au long du cycle de vie de son entreprise.

Bien que le réflexe du mentor est souvent de lui donner une réponse directement, il est plus utile pour l’entrepreneur de le guider dans  le processus cognitif qu’il doit développer afin de non seulement trouver réponse seul(e) mais aussi s’assurer qu’il/elle se pose la bonne question.

Un exemple de réponse à la question sur le financement serait :

Quelles démarches as-tu fait pour trouver du financement à date? 

L’objectif ici est de comprendre le processus cognitif déjà enclenché pour répondre à la question

À quoi servira ce financement?

Permet de faire prendre conscience à l’entrepreneur qu’il existe des outils de dette appropriés pour chaque type de besoin. On peut amorcer une réponse à ce stade en lui parlant des différents organismes qui offrent des types précis de financement.

Comment le montant sera-t-il repayé?

Permet la prise de conscience des coûts et autres contraintes liées au financement

Y-a-t-il une autre avenue que le financement pour accomplir ton objectif?

Une fois les coûts et contraintes liés à la dette réalisés, l’entrepreneur sera plus ouvert à explorer d’autres sources de capitaux.

Questions existentielles

Ce type de questions touche les motivations,  préférences et le caractère de l’individu

Elles sont du type Est-ce que j’ai ce qu’il faut pour être entrepreneur?

Il est plus utile ici aussi de guider l’entrepreneur dans sa réflexion plutôt que d’essayer de formuler une réponse. D’abord parce que le mentor n’a pas la réponse à ce type de question. Ensuite, parce que l’entrepreneur doit prendre conscience de nombreux facteurs sous-jacents à sa question afin d’y trouver réponse par lui ou elle-même.

Un exemple de questions posées par le/la mentor pourrait être :

Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire pour toi d’être entrepreneur?

Permet de comprendre les attentes et craintes du mentoré.

Comment vois-tu le quotidien d’un entrepreneur? (si pas déjà répondu à la 1ère question)

Le mentor peut ici partager des tranches de son quotidien qui aideront le mentoré à avoir un portrait plus complet de l’entrepreneuriat.

Qu’est-ce qui t’effraie le plus dans la possibilité d’être entrepreneur? (si pas déjà répondu à la 1ère question)

Souvent, le mentoré a des craintes non fondées. C’est le moment de les dissiper. Lorsque ses craintes ont un fondement, le mentor peut partager les traits de caractères ou astuces qui lui ont été les plus utiles pour surmonter les difficultés mentionnées. Cela permettra à l’entrepreneur de juger s’il/elle possède les attributs nécessaires ou si il/elle veut faire l’effort pour les développer.

Il ne s’agit ici, bien entendu, que d’exemples de réponses. Le contexte du mentoré influencera fortement l’approche prise par le/la mentor. L’idée directrice est, dans la mesure du possible, de s’assurer que le/la mentoré(e) reparte avec non seulement les réponses nécessaires mais surtout les outils cognitifs pour trouver réponses à ses prochaines questions. On n’arrive pas à ce type de résultat avec une seule rencontre mais au cours de multiples échanges.

Une dyade mentorale (relation mentor/mentoré) peut durer une vie. En moyenne, par contre, le/la mentore aura transmis une majeure partie de son savoir être entrepreneurial en 18-24 mois de rencontres mensuelles.

 

Mentorat de démarrage - Baker MarketingL’histoire de Marie, entrepreneure en devenir

Les leçons apprises donnent un aperçu de ce qu’un entrepreneur en devenir peut s’attendre à obtenir de la part d’un/e mentor(e).  En concret, un mentor peut avoir un impact très significatif non seulement sur l’évolution professionnelle mais également personnelle de son/sa mentoré(e).

Je vous offre l’histoire véridique de Marie (nom fictif) qui s’est présentée à une rencontre de Mentors Montréal au printemps dernier.

Jeune professionnelle qui travaillait depuis 4 ans dans le secteur institutionnel de la santé, Marie n’arrivait pas à exercer sa profession en fonction de ses valeurs. Elle a donc songé à démarrer sa propre entreprise.

Sa famille et ses amis l’en dissuadaient. Professeurs, fonctionnaires, employés de longue date, aucun d’entre eux n’avait été exposé à l’entrepreneuriat.  Ils l’incitaient fortement à conserver son emploi bien rémunéré et assuré à l’hôpital. Marie, qui ne connaissait rien à l’entrepreneuriat, n’avait où se tourner.  Tout ce qu’elle savait est qu’elle était malheureuse.

Son copain, qui désespérait de voir Marie décrépir émotionnellement au quotidien, lui suggéra d’assister à une rencontre de Mentors Montréal, afin de mieux comprendre ce qu’était l’entrepreneuriat.

Lors d’une première soirée à Mentors Montréal, Marie a pu échanger avec une demi-douzaine de mentors. Elle y a trouvé des oreilles attentives, de l’empathie, des suggestions et de nombreuses informations sur des ressources pertinentes.  Elle a pu, entre autre, repérer un organisme montréalais qui soutenait les entrepreneurs dans son secteur d’activité.

Quelques mois plus tard, lors d’une rencontre subséquente de Mentors Montréal, Marie accompagnée de son copain et resplendissante de bonheur, m’a prise par la main et m’a dit, je dois vous parler.

Les yeux brillants Marie a raconté son parcours des derniers mois. Suite aux suggestions de mentors rencontrés, Marie s’était intégrée dans la communauté entrepreneuriale de son secteur d’activité. Elle a offert ses services bénévolement à trois entreprises en démarrage, qui l’intéressait, pendant qu’elle continuait son travail à l’hôpital.

Après quelques semaines,  convaincue qu’elle serait entrepreneure, mais qu’elle avait encore beaucoup à apprendre, Marie a intégré à titre d’employé à temps plein une des entreprises en démarrage où elle était bénévole.  Son objectif était d’y travailler 9-12 mois tout en démarrant sa propre entreprise.

Marie m’a confié qu’avant sa rencontre avec les mentors de Mentors Montréal, elle se voyait prise dans un emploi qui l’obligeait à agir à l’encontre de ses valeurs pour le restant de ses jours ou à refaire une autre formation. La découverte de l’écosystème entrepreneurial montréalais lui a redonné espoir qu’elle pouvait pratiquer sa profession selon ses valeurs et à sa façon.

Son copain, qui assistait à l’échange et souriait sans cesse, a dit qu’il n’avait jamais vu Marie si heureuse. Il la voyait s’épanouir à vu d’œil depuis les dernières semaines.

J’ai reçu un long message de Marie il y a quelques semaines.  Elle et son copain sont maintenant mariés. Ils ont quitté Montréal pour le Qatar, où  son conjoint a obtenu un poste qu’il convoitait.  Elle est à mettre en place son entreprise.  Elle m’a confié que, sans son élan entrepreneurial, elle n’aurait jamais accepté de suivre son conjoint.  Elle est maintenant emballée, bien qu’un peu effrayée, à l’idée de démarrer son nouveau projet tout en apprivoisant la culture entrepreneuriale locale.

Marie n’est qu’une des douzaines d’entrepreneurs en devenir dont le parcours professionnel, et parfois personnel,  a été modifié suite à ses rencontres avec des mentors.

Ce qui est très valorisant à titre de mentor, œuvrant auprès d’entrepreneurs en devenir, est la satisfaction de débloquer ce potentiel entrepreneurial chez certains individus et de les voir s’épanouir  à travers leurs projets.

 

Mentorat de démarrage - Baker MarketingPistes d’amélioration

Il manque en fait bien peu d’éléments pour rendre le mentorat d’affaires plus accessible aux entrepreneurs montréalais en devenir[1].

Montréal est doté d’un superbe écosystème entrepreneurial. Qu’il s’agisse de communautés meetups dédiés aux entrepreneurs, d’incubateurs, de labs, de hackathons, d’organismes d’aide aux entrepreneurs, d’accélérateurs (sectoriels ou universitaires) ou d’organismes de capitaux de risques tous les services possibles sont offerts aux entrepreneurs.

Le mentorat d’affaires est souvent un des services de ces organismes. Chacun d’entre eux a sa propre base de mentors. Si bien qu’un entrepreneur en devenir doit dans un premier temps repérer l’organisme qui offre l’accès à un mentor, satisfaire ses critères d’admissibilité (ce qui est impossible pour ceux en phase de réflexion) et trouver le ou la mentor(e) avec qui il/elle se sent confortable.  Un parcours qui en décourage plusieurs.

Un répertoire centralisé de mentors

Un répertoire centralisé de mentors, commun aux différents organismes d’aide aux entrepreneurs,  faciliterait l’accès au service de mentorat. Cela tant pour les organismes d’aide que pour les entrepreneurs.

Multiplier les points d’accès

Les organismes d’aide pourraient, par exemple, offrir un local où un mentor résidant (plusieurs mentors en rotation) accueillerait les entrepreneurs avec ou sans rendez-vous. Les organismes pourraient se relayer de façon à  partager les coûts liés à l’utilisation du local et assurer un accès permanent.

Publiciser les services de mentorat

La plupart des organismes d’aide, dont la mission première n’est pas le mentorat, publicisent très peu leur offre de service mentorale, qui est généralement réservée à leurs clients.

Si tous les organismes d’aide rendaient visible sur leur site web ou leur autres plateformes de médias sociaux la possibilité de rencontrer un mentor d’affaires (non seulement pour leurs clients, ce qu’ils font déjà), cela aiderait grandement à accroître l’accessibilité.

Retirer les contraintes

L’accès aux services de mentorat pour les individus en réflexion ou au début de leur démarrage devrait être libre de toute contrainte et lié à aucun critère d’admissibilité. Leur avenir étant souvent incertain et leur profil très varié, toute contrainte agirait à titre de frein.

Idéalement les mentors ne seraient pas des conseillers de l’organisme hôte mais bien des mentors bénévoles indépendants à qui on offrirait un espace gratuit où rencontrer des entrepreneurs en devenir pour quelques heures.

Cela n’empêcherait en rien aux organismes d’utiliser la base de mentors pour leur propre programme en parallèle tout en imposant les contraintes qui leur permettraient de répondre à leurs objectifs respectifs.

Virtualiser l’accès

Une application,  rattachée au répertoire central des mentors, pourrait également permettre des rencontres virtuelles avec des mentors. Mentors Montréal explore, depuis quelques mois, diverses applications qui permettraient ces rencontres virtuelles.

Bien  que la clientèle visée par Mentors Montréal ne soit pas complètement monétisable (une partie n’est pas inclus dans la définition gouvernementale des usagers des organismes d’aide aux entrepreneurs), pour les organismes d’aide aux entrepreneurs elle peut par contre s’intégrer dans leur modèle d’affaires et servir de pépinière, de laboratoire et de lieu d’échange neutre avec les autres organismes à vocation similaires.

Cette première année d’opération de Mentors Montréal nous aura donc permis d’atteindre les objectifs fixés. Soit de desservir les besoins en mentorat d’affaires d’entrepreneur en devenir et de servir de laboratoire et de lieu d’échange neutre aux organismes montréalais d’aide aux entrepreneurs. Elle aura aussi permis à certains organismes du milieu, de mieux comprendre les besoins de cette clientèle en amont de l’entrepreneuriat.

Mentors Montréal poursuivra dans cette même lancée au cours de sa seconde année et travaillera, avec ses partenaires, à accroître l’accessibilité et améliorer l’offre de services de mentorats d’affaires aux entrepreneurs montréalais en devenir.

[1] Le mentorat d’affaires est déjà très accessible à Montréal aux entrepreneurs qui sont bien avancés dans leur démarrage ou en opération.