There is always a collective sigh of relief when the company begins to have customers that have purchased the company’s offering. At times, it felt like that day would never come. However, shortly after the sign of relief comes a gasp as the reality sinks in. Up to this point, no matter how much emphasis has been placed on customers, the activities were internally focused and, most importantly, driven by internal planning and scheduling.
Just as being able to demo the product was a milestone step for the company, receiving orders from customers is also just a milestone on the road to success. The demo product was a strong indication that the planned offering was, in fact, do-able. Receiving orders is a strong indication that the company is addressing a problem that customers recognize needs to be solved now and are willing to pay for. After order fulfillment has occurred, the real test of the company’s mettle begins. Once the product or service is turned over to the customer, an entirely new set of challenges emerge. Those challenges require a new emphasis and different skill sets within the company. Even more challenging is the fact that activities and priorities will now often be driven by the customer and not based on internal schedules. Interrupt driven events take over for most of the organization. Quite simply, when customers call with issues or even to order more products or services, the company needs to respond. Previous plans, carefully developed and optimized now may have to be discarded. The most obvious example is when a latent defect occurs. It could be hardware or software related or even a misunderstanding on the part of the customer. To put this in perspective, one of the articles in this collection, “A Simple Definition of a Defect” states that a defect is any deviation from a customer’s expectations.
An entire chapter, number 4.02, includes articles on the difference between responding and reacting. Independent of which occurs, unscheduled actions will be required to deal with the issue, most probably surfaced by a customer.
As customers are added, internal resources must shift responsibilities. No one is impacted more than the entrepreneur, now with the title of CEO. The demands on their time require them to delegate responsibilities, working through others. In many cases, business partners will be required to support certain activities. The need to selectively scale different elements in the business at different times and different levels will become daily issues. And, while new customers will provide new revenue, the required cash to build scalable systems, inventory, and cover accounts receivable generally requires more capital infusion, a task that will fall on the shoulders of the CEO. These factors, plus many more, are the reason that the sigh of relief quickly turns into a gasp for air.
The articles associated with this stage, address this exciting but very challenging period.