By Aaron Stathi
Making a great idea real
Your idea and reality are going to be two totally different things. The important thing is to start today, and not to stop.
When we began Forcite we quickly realised we couldn’t afford to produce the motorbike helmet, so we pivoted to a ski helmet. The ski helmet didn’t work because the community wasn’t receptive to it, so we moved back to the motorbike helmet. You can’t expect to get from where you are to realise your ambition immediately: it’s incremental steps. You might see a step and think it’s too big, so you break it down into smaller steps until you can take those steps.
Overcoming road blocks
When you have a road block it’s much easier to cut something away so you can keep moving forward. You can always add it back in later. You might be making a video game and you have all your characters and music but there’s a certain function that doesn’t work. Cut that function out and release what you have as a demo, because you want to get it to market and receive customer feedback. The worst thing is to build a product from zero to one hundred, without knowing whether there’s actually a market for it. Many people feel they need to have something fully polished before they approach customers, but that’s simply not true.
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How to build trust
Building trust with people is doing the hard things they ask for, and doing them really well. If you do the thing that other people won’t touch, because it’s difficult or unpleasant, that creates trust and makes clients feel valued. At the start of 2020 there was no real account manager function at Shippit, and many of our clients were a churn risk because they hadn’t heard from anyone in a long time. When we decided to change that, every call we made got blasted. We’d come out of the call on our hands and knees, but as the months went on trust was restored and built even further. That’s when the client goes ‘whoa, something has changed.’
On the spectrum
At Shippit I operate on a line of customer certainty which runs from ‘solve my problem’ to ‘I love Shippit.’
My goal every day is to move the needle a little further to the right and keep them there. The first segment I consider a churn risk. They might not have heard from anyone in a long time, their bookings have dropped, or they send a lot of support tickets. We go to that segment and say ‘let’s get on a discovery call to understand your needs, your points and how we can do better.’ Trust is built from there, and bolstered by fortnightly or monthly follow up calls to touch base and see how the client is doing.
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Start-ups and the 80/20 principle
I’m passionate about the 80/20 principle – done is better than perfect. Don’t wait too long to make a decision: the nature of a start-up is to keep making decisions regularly. It’s not a business like a bank where you have a huge chain of command and need to wait for an answer or that answer might not even reach you. There are two kinds of decisions. The ones you can backtrack on are the decisions you can make regularly, but then there are the one-way doors. Those are the decisions you can’t go back from, so you should make the first sort more often. This goes back to what I said at the start about problem solving and rolling your sleeves up and getting on with it. If you’re not making a decision and instead saying ‘I need to check with the other team’ that sounds lousy. But if you hold your hand up and say to the client ‘this stops with me’ that is music to their ears.