Are You Ready to Run a Customer-Centered Business?

Running a company whose end goal is making your customers happy is hard. Obviously running a company at all is hard, but a business all about your users is fundamentally different. Have you considered what it means to be responsible to for a lot of people’s happiness, to set that as part of your mission?

Everyone says they’re pro-user. Let’s face it, nowadays if you’re building something on the internet, you’re expected to talk that game. But it’s important for founders and their teams to understand what they’re signing on for. Once you’ve gotten your first few thousand users, and maybe closed a round of investment, and are suddenly hunkering down to try and create exponential growth, and thinking your very first thoughts about scaling, a shift begins to take place. 

To build from this point with a close connection to your customers is going to be a whole different kind of hard. Have you thought about how it’ll change your day to day? More bug reports with more urgency, apologies, communication around issues. Having a developed understanding of how your community will respond to things affects your decision making. Before you’re at the point of hiring someone to lead your community, figure out whether or not you want a community. 

Assuming you’ve done a good job, and hired the right community lead, they’ll be in your face all the time with things that need to be handled for your customers. They’ll push you to make things better for them. You need to know whether that’s something you want.

If you don’t feel you’re suited to run a community driven company, that’s ok. There are verticals and business models, even in tech, that don’t require you to place user engagement and happiness as your raison d’etre. But do some soul searching beforehand about yourself, your team, and what you want to build, and know where you fall on that spectrum.


The Importance of Informality

How informal is your team? Do people follow social protocol, or display certain types of etiquette? If so, do all those little things and the extra seconds and thought cycles people spend on them move your company’s mission forward when aggregated? 

Informality is one of the most essential ingredients in enabling fluid exchanges of information between people. If you’re willing to set aside some of the established ways of operating socially, because you agree amongst yourselves that they’re unnecessary, you’re making yourself more vulnerable. It’s about being just a little unguarded. If you’re doing that all at the same time, together, that fosters trust.

And I don’t need to tell you that trust and free flowing information are crucial when a group of people need to pull together to solve difficult, exciting problems.

Informality is also a happy by-product. An output, not an input. Informality arises because of the other things you’re doing right. There are external signals associated with informality, especially in the corporate world, but just because an office lacks suits doesn’t mean the people in it trust one another. Don’t confuse the external signals with the internal substance.

The meaning of work, and the relationships we have with our coworkers are transforming fast. So what are you doing to foster trust?