Customer Acquisition Teams CATs

Lean Startup Accountability Groups

I was overwhelmed.

I wanted to build my business the right way. I wanted to talk to customers, I wanted to test my assumptions.

But instead…I was doing nothing.

- Who are my “early adopters?”
- How do I find them?
- Should I survey or interview?
- How do I even ask for an interview?

I had more questions than answers, and the answers I did have, were scary…

- Talk to strangers
- Cold calls
- Troll LinkedIn
- Awkward conversations where I was asking for value, but providing none

Frustrated…disappointed…I wanted someone to ask for advice. Someone who understood Lean and could push me in the right direction. Someone I could ask “stupid” questions of.

And more than anything, I wanted someone to hold me accountable. I didn’t want a boss, but I wanted someone who I could make a promise to, and feel compelled to keep my promise. Someone to motivate me to do the difficult work of validating hypotheses.

Enter Mark: My Accountabili-Buddy

Mark Horoszowski - my Accountabilibuddy

Spinning my wheels, I reached out to my friend Mark, a fellow Lean founder, with a proposition:

Meet for coffee every week and share:
1. What we did last week
2. What we’re doing this week
3. The challenges we’re facing

During our meetings, we’d provide each other clarity, we’d brainstorm solutions to one another’s problems, we’d call BS on one another, and most importantly, we’d hold each other accountable.

“You said you were going to interview 10 customers. Did you?”

Just knowing Mark was going to ask me what I did last week motivated me to “get out of the building” – and changed everything.

Expectations Exceeded

I can’t attribute all of our successes to our coffee conversations, but some amazing things happened after we started them.

Mark launched Moving Worlds, won NWEN’s First Look Forum, and closed oversubscribed his funding round. His is the first social enterprise I know of to do so.

I pivoted hard from my app idea to helping other founders practice Lean Startup. Since then I’ve coached in Singapore, Serbia, San Juan, Seattle, San Francisco, and a host of other places that don’t start with S. I’ve mentored for Startup Weekend, Founder Institute, NEXT, Lean Startup Machine and I get to work 1-on-1 with 50+ founders every month.

In addition to our business success, Mark and I have become much closer friends. The highs and lows of entrepreneurship are unlike any other. Experiencing them with someone else makes the journey not only more successful, but more fulfilling.

"Wedding wine in yo' cup"
Last weekend I got to see Mark marry the love of his life. In Aspen. It sucked.

Introducing: Customer Acquisition Teams

I want every founder to experience what Mark gave to me. I want you to have the gift of:

- Focus: know exactly what to do next.
- Accountability: get more done…faster.
- Support: failure sucks, even when it’s expected. Talking with others helps.
- Traction: get customers faster.

Inspired by Mark, I’m proud to announce the availability of Customer Acquisition Teams.

Customer Acquisition Teams are small groups of Lean founders (4 – 6), who meet weekly via Google Hangout to provide the same kind of clarity, productivity, and motivation Mark and I found meeting at coffee shops.

Much more information here. When you’re ready to leverage other founders to get customers faster, join your team.

Deadline to Sign-up: April 15th
Spots remaining: 7

If you’re ready to practice Customer Development better, move your business forward, and get customers more quickly, it’s time to join your Customer Acquisition Teams.

Customer Acquisition Teams CATs

 

We’ll be there for you.

7 comments

  1. Kevin Dewalt (@kevindewalt)

    Justin,

    This is an excellent idea an I did the same thing with SoHelpful. I actually only made the correct course correction when I had a call with Joel Gascoigne (Buffer) and Patrick Smith (Power Supply). You don’t need rockstar entrepreneurs or “experts”. Smart friends are perfectly capable of helping people out.

    Eric Ries called these “pivot or persevere” meetings in his book – it is just amazingly helpful to get together and hold each other accountable.

  2. Justin Wilcox

    Interesting to hear how many of us have created these groups in an ad hoc way, and that they’ve been successful. Hopefully we can scale up this kind of support for founders ’round the world!

  3. Ramon Gonzalez (@rjgonzo)

    Love the idea. One of the hardest thing of being an entrepreneurs is that, at least at the beginning, you have no one but yourself, and maybe your team, to hold yourself accountable. It’s a great idea to have someone you can count on who is completely unbiased and can keep you in check when you deviate from the plan.

  4. Laimonas Simutis

    Justin, great post.

    I can attest to the benefit of having an accountability partner. I started having weekly accountability sessions with someone in December. Four months into the year I can look back and say with good certainty that some of the accomplishments would not be there without the weekly calls in place.

    I think this sums it up the best:

    “During our meetings, we’d provide each other clarity, we’d brainstorm solutions to one another’s problems, we’d call BS on one another, and most importantly, we’d hold each other accountable.”

    That’s exactly right. When you are stating your plans to someone, you think through them in depth, you find clarity, and that’s a big positive.

    One issue I think I am still struggling with is calling out BS. When I hear my partner mention something vague, I start asking questions and ask him to be more specific. But I do wonder if I should be doing more of that in order to help the other person out as much as possible.

    How long are your sessions usually? We keep a time limit in place, 15 minutes each, and I feel like it is fine for now. We have gone over it a few times but mostly we stick to that limit. Curious to see if yours experience is the same.

    • Justin Wilcox

      That’s great to hear Laimonas, thanks for sharing!

      If 15 minutes is working for you, sounds great to me. Mark and I didn’t have a set time limit. Was more like, “As long as it takes…or until one of us has a meeting.” That said, I think we could have been more efficient with our time, so you’re probably on the right track :)

      The Customer Acquisition Teams are going to be limited to an hour, so each person will have 10 – 15 minutes. We’ll see how that goes and make adjustments as necessary.

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