Startup culture loves big pictures and disruptive ideas. Not only is the ability to give a compelling pitch a necessary part of fundraising, but it’s also a boon to leadership. Setting that “North Star” with confidence helps teams and stakeholders align around a common vision and get to work.
For all their usefulness, though, those big ideas can sometimes be disruptive in bad ways. Bold missions and high-altitude abstractions can inadvertently create blind spots that lead to a false sense of comfort. Entrepreneurs can become shortsighted and focus so much on top-line numbers and banal status reports that they lose sight of the critical frontline factors that determine the ultimate success of their business.
My company was founded to help industries with remote, distributed workforces reduce turnover and retain their best people. We started— literally—where the rubber meets the road by spending time with drivers to understand the factors affecting retention in the trucking industry. We slept in sleeper cabs, we ate the same food as our highway travel companions and showered at truck stops. When it was time to pitch our service to executives, we not only brought a bold vision for a better way to do business, but also concrete evidence from (and a profoundly human understanding of) the front lines of the industry.
Fully immersing yourself in the day-to-day lives of the front lines of the industry your company serves gives you a quiver of competitive advantage that not only helps you win business and drive growth, but will enable you to do so with deep insights into the factors that drive long-term success.
Here are the five biggest advantages of taking the plunge.
Reason #1: Provable credibility
A ground-level understanding of front-line transactions provides tremendous value and color to the data generated by those transactions. It is one thing to see a dip in revenue on a computer screen, and quite another to see a frustrated driver trying to correct an error on a shipping manifest.
Arming yourself with real stories from the real people at work signals that you are committed to a deep understanding of their business and won’t settle for generalizations.
Reason #2: Thought leadership
Good habits lead to great insights. Focusing consistently on the dynamic relationship between small factors (individual transactions, employee frustrations, and so on) and their aggregate effects almost inevitably leads to evolved perspective and new insights. The communication of these insights enables you to engage in the conversations that chart the course for entire industries, not just clients.
Reason #3: Intelligent empathy
In a world as saturated with data and media as ours, it’s easy to lose touch with the real people and emotions that affect the quantifiable aspects of your industry. By opening lines of communication between yourself and the front-line employees of your industry, you enable yourself to run your business with a full accounting of the human costs and consequences of your decisions. This helps avoid big mistakes that drive employees and customers away.
Reason #4: Superior improvement
Running a startup is a relentless and scrappy pursuit. You have to outwork and outsmart your competition. When you’re connected directly to front-line of the industry your company serves, you can make informed, rigorous decisions about where, when, and how to invest your resources. This leads to refinements and innovations that bring similarly direct improvements to the processes affecting your customers.
Reason #5: Organic networking
Among the many dubious aspects of social media and digital marketing, few are as cursed as “vanity metrics,” including views, likes, shares, and other data that can bring more fog than clarity to business communications. By integrating organic, one-on-one communications with your front-line customers into your broader business practices, you organically gain positive network effects. As a result, you weave trust throughout your business from top to bottom.
There is a reason they say that if you want to really learn a language and how it’s used, you need to immerse yourself in a culture where that language is used first and foremost. By doing so, you’ll understand the language on a more intimate level than mere words on paper. The same is true in the entrepreneurial space.
You simply have to take a deep immersive dive into your target industry. If you do, you’ll benefit yourself, your customers and anyone else associated with your product or service.