The Two Things to Do. When You Don’t Know What to Do.
There may come a time, or two, in your company when you just don’t know what to do:
- You aren’t growing fast enough. or
- The competition seems to be getting the best of you. or
- You can’t raise financing. or
- You just lost an important deal. Or maybe more than one. or
- That great new initiative you were so excited about. Isn’t really working. or
- Well anything like this.
These are some of the most stressful times, because it’s latent stress. You aren’t failing that day, and you may not truly be “failing” in a way most people can see or measure. But things just aren’t going the way you think they should.
My simple advice is to do two things, one internal, one external.
First, get on a jet and go visit a customer. Ideally, five. There is nothing better you can do not just to learn, but to challenge your thinking, than get on a jet. Yes, you may think after 50 or 100 customers you know enough. Sometimes, after the first 50 customers or so, I see founders visiting customers less. Because they think they can dial back here a bit now that they have a sellable product. That’s backwards. Customers will tell you stories and insights you don’t actually know. They’ll challenge you to double down on things that really matter. They’ll challenge you to think longer term. They’ll challenge you to figure it out.
Worst case, you come back with 3-5 good ideas to implement. Worst case, customers help you in your process of force ranking the Fairly Important things. You already know how to force rank the handful of Must Do’s This Week. It’s harder to force rank the next level. Customer visits profoundly help here.
When in doubt, do what it takes to keep your existing customers. They’re the source of your future customers.
Second, get your NPS (“Net Promoter Score”) up. If you boil NPS down to one thing, it tells you if your customers will recommend you to others — or not. All great software companies are ultimately built on word-of-mouth. So get your NPS up. 50+ means your word-of-mouth viral cycle is going to work well. 10 means it isn’t. But whatever your NPS is — measure it and set it as a core goal for the company to get it up 10 points, or whatever amount you think is right, by a certain date. The beauty to this goal is the whole company can rally around it. Everyone in the company can help get NPS up.
And if you do get your NPS up 10 points, if nothing else — it will work. It will get you more second-order customers. More upsell. Less churn. More upgrades. It won’t work overnight. But this is why getting your NPS up is a great thing to do, when you don’t know what else to do. It won’t help you make the quarter. But it will help you get the whole team aligned on what will help you make next year’s plan.
It will help tell you what to do. When you don’t know what to do.