One of The 25 Most Influential People on the Web*, Paul Graham, came up with a list of 13 things to keep in mind when you form a startup. He wanted to make it a classic “10 things” list but ended up with 13. The one he thinks is most important, though, is:
4. Understand your users.
You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle,
where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you
improve their lives. The second dimension is the one you have
most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be
driven by how well you do in the second. As in science, the hard
part is not answering questions but asking them: the hard part is
seeing something new that users lack. The better you understand
them the better the odds of doing that. That’s why so many successful
startups make something the founders needed.
This applies to every kind of business, not just technology startups. Asking the right questions of the right people — your customers or potential customers — is key to success. And don’t stop asking when you launch the business. Keep asking!