The Key to Building a Successful Startup: Stop and Listen
From our days in high school and university to our first jobs, everyone’s journey in life looks a little bit different from the rest. This is especially true throughout the course of our careers.
Personally, I have traveled through various companies and industries. Despite the obstacles I encountered along the way, I was able to build a successful startup, roOomy, with the help of my cofounder, Jan-Hein Pullens. Along the way, I learned that listening to your customers and your coworkers is the key to product success and employee retention.
Listen to Your Customers
During my career, the most important thing I discovered is that you need to understand your customer’s journey. My background in sales led me to realize that understanding the market and where the need is — and being able to communicate that need to a prospective customer or investor — is invaluable.
An engaged team will have many ideas for new products, features, and innovations, but it’s critical to stay focused on the problems you are solving. At roOomy, we always ask questions about how a proposed feature will benefit the core customer journey. This is vital feedback that all executives should embrace.
When in doubt, test it! We’ve done a tremendous amount of user testing recently, especially as it relates to our user interface and experience. We discovered that what we thought was a clear navigation strategy actually had significant opportunity for improvement. User testing awarded us the opportunity to implement UI and UX improvements that have had a profound impact on our user base.
The moral of the story? Listen to your customers. When people come to you with questions, comments, needs, or obstacles, don’t leave them unanswered. Those folks are some of your most valuable resources because they care enough to communicate!
Listen to Your Employees
As important as the customer journey is, your talent is equally important. Your company’s innovation, creativity, and energy comes from within.
During the talent acquisition process, it is critical to ensure new hires have strong synergy with existing staff. To go on maintaining that synergy, you have to retain your employees. Treating employees well and communicating transparently are both key to keeping workers around for the long term.
Enthusiasm matters, too. If you believe in what you are doing, are excited, and are motivated, people will want to stay with you — even in the most competitive job market.
Listen to Your Mentors
It is critical to surround yourself with people you trust who can act as advisors. Having access to other successful leaders via mentorship is incredibly valuable, particularly when starting a new company. I was fortunate enough to have great mentors guide me along my path to roOomy, and I continue this practice by mentoring other Dutch entrepreneurs on how to grow and internationalize their startups.
Throughout my career I have found success by listening. By listening to my customers, to my employee, and to my mentors, I was able to produce a product I was confident would resonate in the market and disrupt many industries. Surround yourself with individuals who challenge you, and their insights will help you grow and achieve great success.
Pieter Aarts is CEO and cofounder of roOomy