Why Friends and Family Can't Validate Your Business
Sure, it’s fine to support the wildly creative ideas of the kids in your life, but what if your best friend, family member, or life partner comes up with a business that may not have potential?
Or even worse, what if you’re the one with the product that’s destined to fail, and you don’t even know it?
The thing is, even a great idea might not succeed if it isn’t solving a real problem. But when you only surround yourself with people who think like you or want to make you happy — your friends, family, and peers — they may never tell you the flaws they see in your plan because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. And how could you blame them? It’s human nature to want to encourage the ones you love.
As the program manager for CEI’s Market Validation Essentials (MVE), it’s my job to poke holes in a founder’s dream business. I’m downright blunt when I work with our clients, but even I’m guilty of glossing over the truth when I'm off the clock. When my friends and family come to me with their business ideas, I find myself being very careful with what I say and how I say it.
Take my 12-year old cousin, Charlotte, for example.
During a recent family barbeque, Charlotte informed me she was going to start a business where she and a friend would wear pink tuxedos and go to restaurants to taste their food. I told her it sounded fun, but then I pressed her on business specifics and how she would make money. In total confidence she exclaimed, “they’ll pay us tons of money just to come!” While I love her spirit and unique sense of entrepreneurialism, her business concept had a lot of holes in it.
And although supporting my little cousin’s creativity was to her benefit, I find myself doing the same to my close friends and peers.
Why? Because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. But in doing that, I only hurt them more.
How to get better feedback on your business
Many of us are predisposed to avoid conflict and not want to offend anyone. As a result, sometimes we inhibit our own ability to offer good, honest advice.
In The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick breaks down why asking people if your business is a “good idea” can hinder your growth – especially when you’re asking your own mom. They already have a built-in bias that favors whatever you do, thus leading you to gain a false confidence in your business. His series of questions are phrased in a way to prevent your interviewee from sugar-coating their response. When conducting a customer interview, he suggests that you:
- Talk about their life instead of the idea
- Ask about specifics from the past instead of generics or opinions about the future
- Talk less and listen more
By getting to know your customer and their needs intimately, you can determine if your solution fits into their narrative truthfully.
To make sure this is done correctly and thoroughly, we’ve based our Market Validation Essentials program on asking participants to call and interview 100 prospective customers. When you talk to people at that high of volume, you get a large enough sample to get clarity and data on what your customers, not relatives, are looking for.
Moving forward, it’s imperative to get the needed feedback, and not the needed ego boost. Do the work to make sure you are truly finding a solution to a glaring problem or making someone’s life easier. And for those who support those on an entrepreneurial journey, at the end of the day, honesty is the best policy.
Need some extra support?
I’d love to chat about your business or idea and see if Market Validation Essentials is the right fit for you! Fill out this form and I’ll follow up with information about our next cohort.