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How One Customer Turned This Entrepreneur's Startup Into a Goldmine

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Harry Red

Each person counts.
Suppose you run a business where your prices are low. In the long run, you need a lot of customers to sustain it, right?
Correct. Now -- say your first two customers can net you $20 each. Should you deliver just enough value to keep them satisfied, and no more?
Certainly not. Entrepreneurs love to think about the big numbers: the millions in revenue, the 1% of some huge market, the thousands of eager customers. Waste of time.
Huge pitfall here. Because if you treat them right, your early customers can level up your business, big time.
Take Ryan Westwood.
2015-10-12-1444655389-1730093-ryanwestwoodheadshot.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-12-1444655389-1730093-ryanwestwoodheadshot.jpg
As cofounder and CEO of Simplus, a SaaS company which just raised $4.2M, he swears by this.
Sold two companies: one a PC tech support firm called PcCareSupport, which later hit #224 on the Inc 500 list.
How did it start? Back in 2010, he bootstrapped it from nothing with his cofounder.
Hustle hard and you just might discover your niche
From day one, Westwood and his cofounder rolled up their sleeves and went to work to sell technical support.
Knocked on doors, hustled hard, for 10 hours a day. Their payoff? Maybe one sale of $120, on a good day. Equivalent of six dollars an hour each. He told me:
"We quickly realized we were hustling our butts off to sell technical support door-to-door. And it was slow, it was not happening. So we needed to figure out another way to the market."
"We got together and thought: what do we have? We have one partner who can do technical support."
Sound like much to you? Perhaps not. But when you're up against a roadblock, more often than not, you already have the assets you need to break through. Idly sitting there.
In Westwood's case, turns out they had plenty. They traded with local radio stations, asked them to run ads in return for technical support. Medieval-style barter.
And it worked. They convinced one radio station to run their ads.
"We were so stoked, when they started running the ads and one of them traded with us. We got geared up for the radio ads to start pouring in and we thought it'll be huge, you know, really naively."
"And we're sitting there and...nothing, nothing, nothing."
Imagine: you just won a major victory, getting the word out about your business. Countless potential customers hear your words. Your pitch. Your value propositions.
And nobody cares.
All for nothing? Not quite: one person called. One customer -- who became so important, she changed the nature of his business.
A single customer can turn your entire business around
She wasn't an easy customer. Wanted to know details on just about everything. Westwood spoke with her for what seemed like forever.
"I thought: why is this lady asking me like 800 questions? I was just trying to get $20 a month!"
She kept going with the endless questions. Anything short of his dog's name. You and I would've forgiven Westwood for politely postponing the call with some excuse. But he didn't.
"I just thought: these are our first customers, we gotta take really good care of them so we can get word of mouth. So I did everything I could to roll the red carpet out for this lady."
Slow down and absorb this: you should aim to overdeliver for your first customers. Roll out the red carpet, as Westwood says.
Why? Because it shows you care about them. And so, they'll open up, share more, and use their hard-earned trust and reputation with others to tell them about your business. Genuine word-of-mouth, as old as language itself.
What happened next proves this: a couple months later, Westwood got a call from the largest wireless internet service provider in America, offering to buy his company. Wow.
How did they find them? Turns out, that difficult customer was the mother of their vice president of operations. Thrilled with the support she received from Westwood, she couldn't help but spread the word.
But look -- with PcCareSupport in early-stage, a tiny $250/month office and barely $10,000 in total revenue so far, Westwood was overwhelmed. Yet he managed to build relations with them and hammer out a partnership instead.
From now on, all those big company tech support calls were forwarded to PcCareSupport. Huge inflexion point. Leads poured in.
"We had to hire people like crazy and started booming. We went to over 40 people in the next 12 months."
Yes -- call it karma for caring about just one customer. The lesson? One person equals not just one person. Everyone acts as a potential gateway to who knows where. The connection you don't yet know you need could hide in the address book of your next difficult customer.
What next for PcCareSupport? All fun and games? Far from it. The PC tech support industry took a nosedive. Westwood had to act.
Get your timing right
"So much of entrepreneurship is timing. The most successful entrepreneurs know when to exit a business. I saw the market was shifting to mobile, we'd have to put an immense amount of capital in, and there was some scrutiny on the industry in general. The brand of the industry was going down."
"And so between seeing the signs of the industry and seeing an opportunity in a bigger industry, it made sense to sell."
He sold PcCareSupport and went on to found Simplus. Switched from a dying industry to a thriving one, armed with lessons from PcCareSupport. A far bigger opportunity.
What else from Westwood? Hard at work on a new book, The Five Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur. Surveyed over 10,000 successful entrepreneurs to learn their secrets. But same thing here: big numbers impress, but everything starts with one person. One individual.
In this case, you.
Look -- how many customers do you have? A hundred? Ten? Just one? All good. Take solace from this: small numbers do just fine.
But of course, you can't stay there.
Go build trust. Overdeliver. With the connections of your early customers, you might tease out your biggest opportunity yet. Just like Westwood did.
Hi, I'm Harry -- a fellow entrepreneur. Keen to help you discover customers you'd love to serve. Let's connect.

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