There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
A business requires customers—not eyeballs or clicks, but people or organizations that are willing and able to pay for your offering. So, who is your customer? We recently advised a high school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) company that is looking to expand its market share. I asked them: who is your customer? The answer: Superintendents.
Hmm… this needs to be narrowed down a lot more. In order to build a business, you need to be very targeted about who your customer is. First, is the superintendent really the decision-maker, or just an influencer? Who will drive that sale through for you and who is going to sign off on the payment? Secondly, you likely won’t have access to most superintendents.
A little startup will never have the bandwidth to target “superintendents”. You need to find a segment, a niche. That could be: private/parochial schools, districts with huge STEM initiatives, reform movements around STEM. You get the drift. Start with a group that you can find and identify, and get them to be customers—yes, paying customers. Then, you will have a business that you can scale and expand.
One other note, many startups try to expand too quickly, to be all things to all people. As I launch my new company, I am going to keep this in mind, and make sure that I get it right with that first group of customers before trying to expand out too aggressively.