Staying Close To Your Customers

When Joe Gebbia, Co-Founder of Airbnb describes the early days of Airbnb he talks about a very small team of founders involved in every aspect of designing their product.  This included being the stager and photographer of their first hosts, and spending time questioning and being questioned by these first users. See an interview with Joe at

Arguably, the work the founders did during this initial period of pure customer focus was the highest value add work ever done for the company – developing a product from near zero uptake to something that has mass market appeal.  In addition, they created Airbnb’s first advocates.  The hosts they worked with became life-long advocates of the company because they were listened to, and they received value back from Gebbia and his cohorts.  

There are many lessons to be learned from Airbnb, however 2 key takeaways that are fundamental to Airbnb’s, and every company’s continuing success are:     

  1. Stay Close to Your Customers:  As a leader in your organization, it is your responsibility to be in constant touch with your customers.  It is also your responsibility to ensure that your organization has the systems in place to constantly communicate with your customers, both questioning them, and responding to their questions; and then to adapt your products and services to continually delight them.
  2. Help your Customers Add Value to Their Customers:  Your success is predicated on the success of your customers so make sure you’re doing what it takes to help them impress their customers.

What are the rewards for staying close to your customers?  A long list of advocates, a strong order sheet, and a healthy balance sheet.

Eric Potter, P.Eng, CSP

Delivering Infinite Strategy™ to growing companies.

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