Customer Service revolutionary. Social Responsibility.

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Vision versus Hallucination – Founders and Pivots

This follows on from ‘Listening to Your Customers’ – If you listen you can hear how you are doing. If customers want something else or they want you you to do something differently then PIVOT.

Steve Blank

A founder’s skill is knowing how to recognize new patterns and to pivot on a dime. At times the pattern is noise, and the vision turns out to be a hallucination. Knowing how to sort between vision and  hallucination can avoid chaos inside your startup.


Yuri, one of my ex students started a big-data analytics company last year. He turned his PhD thesis into a killer product, got it funded and now was CEO of a company of 30. It was great to watch him embrace the spirit and practice of customer development. He was constantly in front of customers, listening, selling, installing and learning.

And that’s where the problem was.

I got to spend time inside his company while I was using their software to analyze early-stage ventures. What I saw reminded me of some of the best and worst things I did as a founder.

A Pivot a Week

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What Our Customers Say About Us

Great stuff on listening to your customers. We should all have a good think about this one. Do we listen? Do we really listen? I have heard the following a hundred times or more: “We must be doing well because our business is growing.” It could be short lived. It could be that your market has a small time frame and the trending is only valid for a few months. In which case you need to grow at a much higher rate to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’. By listening to our customers we can address issues as they arise and change our approach dynamically – Listen and Act…



With a business having such a great product capable of fulfilling multiple consumer needs, it can become easy to listen to the hype. However, we listen to our customers and their opinions on whether those needs are actually being met. As they say, the proof is in the pudding!


As a result we would like you to meet a couple of our customers who have bought hotbott.

First, meet Molly. Molly loves to play bowls yet after suffering from Raynaud’s Syndrome, a condition affecting circulation in your hands and fingers, was faced with the decision to potentially quit the sport she loved. Lucky for Molly, hotbott came to the rescue.

In the past few years I have suffered from Raynaud’s Syndrome which affects the circulation to my hands and fingers. Living in a hot country would be ideal, but as a pensioner in Scotland, living with the condition brings its…

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How can companies become more socially responsible?

Do you want to be more cost-effective? Or more than cost effective? What if there was a way to act in your everyday operations that would bring benefits that can impact upon the bottom line without breaking the bank? Well, there is a way and it really is as old as beans. If you take the following and apply it to your business then you should reap great rewards.

Henry John Heinz: A Man of Uncommon Vision

Henry John Heinz was very much the product of his parents, and the lessons he learned from them echo down into the character of the H.J. Heinz Company today.

Henry’s parents taught him thrift rather than greed. He knew nothing of “get rich quick” business schemes and couldn’t bear the thought of ill-gotten gain. Many of his business ideals and principles, almost unheard of at the time, remain progressive to this day. For example, Henry Heinz did business based on the simple idea that every profit should be fairly earned. One of his mottos still guides Heinz’s purchasing practices today: “Deal with the seller so justly that he will want to sell to you again.”

Another driving principle of Henry Heinz’s that resonates in today’s resource-conscious world was his hatred of waste of any kind. Leading by example, he inspired each of his employees to avoid even the slightest waste of material, time or opportunity.

Finally, Henry Heinz learned from his mother a genuine and enduring concern and respect for every person, rich or poor, and always tried to practice her favorite rule for living: “Always remember to place yourself in the other person’s shoes.”

Individually, the principles Henry Heinz instilled in his company can seem simple and almost quaint. Taken together though, they’re an all-too-rare combination in today’s business world. Fortunately, Henry Heinz himself showed that common sense, decency and social justice is a proven recipe for enduring business success.

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”
Henry John Heinz

The lines above are from the Heinz History webpage (http://www.heinz.com/our-company/about-heinz/history.aspx) but they apply just as well today as then. Can you imagine a brand like Heinz for your own company? Well stop imagining and start imitating.

To succeed you have to offer exceptional service and you have to go beyond your competitors to win and keep those wonderful customers but that is simply the beginning. Customer service providers are now implementing comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Managers and owners are now realizing Human Resource positives from their CSR and it’s not just in the most obvious areas.

An effective CSR program must form part of the company culture so it is vital to get buy-in from everyone. It is also essential to align a company’s core values with the CSR and to follow these principles through to the customer. A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that executives of many global companies believe there is more to CSR than just branding residuals (58% of CEO respondents rated CSR as beneficial to employee morale, second only to reputation/brand at 79%). Another recent study confirmed that executives rank employee motivation as one of the top reasons for their implementation of CSR activities, proving that industry is, at long last, seeing the value in these programs.

Support your communities and your communities will support you. Never a more true word written and in the next issues of this blog I will further explore how an effective CSR programme can elevate more than just morale.

For now I will leave you with words from that great man himself:

“To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”
Henry John Heinz