KP Unpacked

KP Reddy Unpacked: The Art of Customer Discovery

March 12, 2024 KP Reddy
KP Unpacked
KP Reddy Unpacked: The Art of Customer Discovery
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

KP lays bare the reasons why founders and external parties are the secret sauce to successful customer discovery. We're shaking off the corporate cobwebs and challenging the status quo, revealing why those accustomed to the comfort of established products may stumble when stepping into the unknown territory of new ventures.

Strap in for an episode that goes beyond mere platitudes, as we introduce a thought-provoking concept: 'massive detachment.' It's a creative crusade against the all-too-human tendency to cling to the familiar, exemplified through workshops where founders objectively critique one another's ideas, breaking down barriers to innovation. KP brings to life the transformative tales of industry giants like IBM, highlighting the crucial pivot points that redefine success.

Want more discussions like this? You can connect with KP Reddy at https://kpreddy.co/ and follow him on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kpreddy/!

Speaker 1:

You are listening to the Shadow Network with KP Ready, your gateway to innovation and architecture, engineering, construction and real estate, with a sprinkle of startups that are making a difference. In between, check us out on YouTube at Shadow Partners. Never miss a live stream fireside chat or talk that we got going on with the industry's most interesting innovators and leaders. Every single week. You can connect with KP Ready and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash Shadow Partners community to learn more. Today. All it takes is a few clicks for you to make a difference. Welcome to the future and welcome to the Shadow Network with KP Ready.

Speaker 2:

Welcome back to KP Ready Unpacked. If you have never been here before, this is my opportunity to ask KP Ready hey, what were you thinking when you posted that on LinkedIn? My name is Jeff Eccles, I'm a senior advisor at Shadow Partners and, of course, I am joined, most importantly, by KP Ready. Hi, kp hey.

Speaker 3:

Jeff, how's it going?

Speaker 2:

It's going really well. If you're out there listening to this now and you're going, hey, what are these guys talking about? That probably means that you're not following KP on LinkedIn and you need to be doing that. My one question is why are you not Just go to LinkedIn, search KP Ready, kpredty, kp Ready and you'll find posts several times a day. Kp is over there posting about conversations. He's had Many times he's sitting into a mastermind group or an incubator session with me and he's got some insights about what we talked about, things that came out of that or just the conversations that he has as he travels. A lot of really great, insightful posts over on LinkedIn and I have the opportunity every week to say, hey, kp, what were you thinking? What inspired that post? And today is no different.

Speaker 2:

So KP, the one that we selected to unpack today, starts out like this the linchpin activity for a founder is customer discovery. They should personally perform these activities. Customer discovery is the single most important activity for corporate innovation. However, I have learned that it is near impossible for this to be done quote, unquote in-house why Internal teams don't have that muscle. Best case, they end up selling the client. Worst case they confuse their customer, existing customers have a hard time being candid with an existing relationship, so you know that may be somewhat self-explanatory. What were you thinking? What you know? What were you? What inspired this? But let's go back what you're traveling around a lot right now doing customer discovery workshops. Our incubator focuses on customer discovery. You mentioned founders, you mentioned corporate. That's a whole lot wrapped up into just a few sentences of this post. But what's important about this? What's most important about this to you?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think what's really important is I have this attitude like everybody should think like a startup and behave like a startup.

Speaker 3:

That's just how everybody should have an even big company. And I think what hit me was that maybe I was being unrealistic, not because of their unwillingness to right, like I can tell a corporate like you should cold call 20 people and they may have some cultural resistance to that because they've never done it, etc. Right, and I get that, and those are those things like suck it up, go do it anyway. Like I'm going to push on that right. Yeah, just like our incubator companies. I'm like I don't want you talking to your friends Because I think when you think about that you can predictive goals like events like those USSR aguas and the Saudi.

Speaker 3:

Arabia wars like therait F, that it's not necessarily. Partly it's a skill set. They don't have the skill set, but they've never launched a new product or service in their career. They stepped into companies and into traditional businesses. Then they respond to RFPs, they respond to bids. They never invented any of it, so they've never had to.

Speaker 3:

It's already been templatized and cookie-cuttered for them from the day they started at the firm. To you know, because of that, they don't have the muscle. They've never done it right? So the third part is they have these great deep existing relationships and shifting your relationships, thinking when they've already known you for 20 years, it's just such a difficult thing. Right, because they don't know. They know if it's a subcontractor taking a GC, calls a GC up and says, hey, I'd love to take you to lunch and run some ideas by you, and GC is like, oh, they must have heard that we just won this new bid and they want a shot to bid on the project. Right, because in many ways these relationships we can call them what they are, but they're also relationships that have been built on years of transactions.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 3:

So the only natural motion is you must want to take me to lunch to either like show, be grateful because the last job I got you gave you, or you're trying to get a new job out of me, right, and so it's really hard to overcome that, that preexisting relationship and what that means to both parties. So even if the company, in this case the subcontractor, has the ability to do customer discovery, I don't know that the other end, the GC, will actually know how to react to it. And that's why I said they might get even confused, like why are you talking to me about this business or that business? Or it's like bizarre, why are you asking me all these questions? You know those are bids. You respond to bids. That's our relationship. You get every third one.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

That's just how that is right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, do you also get into the psychology. You know, in that scenario, right, where we've got this relationship. We've been working together for 20 years and you get every third bid, et cetera. When I approach you and say, hey, can we go to lunch? And you figure out, hey, this is. Whether you actually have the words or not, whether you actually have that specific knowledge or not, you discover that this is a customer discovery call, which means that something I'm probably trying to change something, right. Do you get into that psychology? Then, on the other side, where we go, you know what. We've been doing this for 20 years. I'm really comfortable with our relationship, I really understand our relationship and now you're trying to change something, right? Does that psychology create resistance to that conversation right out of the gate?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I mean 100% because I think yeah, I started to think about it like when you have these preconceived notions about what someone's good at, you know, it's very hard to break out of it and it's kind of comfortable, right. And especially if it's something totally different, if you were sitting in your dentist chair and your dentist starts talking to you about what kind of what do you think about athleisure and clothing? And you're like dude, like what did you do? Sign up for Amway? Are you selling these? Like what is this conversation? You're my dentist, do dentist stuff. I'll make small talk with you, but I'm here for you to like drill my teeth and do those things. I don't wanna talk to you about other things because that's not how I see you.

Speaker 2:

Okay, I've got a question does Amway still exist? I'm sure it does, or is this just another conversation between two old guys?

Speaker 3:

I think it might exist or it's our ball for okay, I think. I think there's some version of it exists, right.

Speaker 2:

Okay, there's some version of it. All right, there's a tangent there, but it's the beginning of time.

Speaker 3:

They were scammers.

Speaker 2:

There you go. So when, when you're going around, you're doing these customer discovery workshops for you know, a large engineering firm or a large construction firm, whoever, whoever the client or partner is. This is one thing I have wondered because, having spent a lot of time in the marketing biz dev world in the aec, when, when you start talking about customer discovery, do some of these organizations immediately push back and say, yeah, that's what our biz dev people are out there doing?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, they do say things like that, like because, but, but I'll tell you is when, when they, when I start to unpack customer discovery and what it is and what the key components are, um, they really struggle because on one hand they think their biz dev people could maybe go do it, but then they realize maybe their biz dev people don't have enough broad knowledge. Right, the benefit of some of the you know whether it's the aec industry, real estate is, once you're in these industries for a long time, there's not a lot of change. If you, if you do the same activities you did a year ago as a biz dev guy, you're the biz dev person at a gc. If you do exactly what you did a year ago, today You're probably fine. If you do today exactly what you did 10 years ago, you're probably okay. Right?

Speaker 3:

And I think the psychology of the people that get into our businesses Are the people that like that comfort of lack of change. They like that I deal with my 1015 relationships. They send me an rfp. I respond to the rfp If they sent me something different, like I wouldn't know what to do with it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think you know that that obviously speaks back to what we were talking about before. You know that relationship and change, etc. But but, as you were saying that, it reminded me. You know, we, we had this conversation. We could go two weeks ago, something like that.

Speaker 2:

For those listening, as I mentioned earlier, our incubator, our startup incubator, is for early state, early stage startups and we focus on customer discovery and it never fails. Every cohort of the incubator, somebody comes in and they've identified a problem, they've developed a solution. Right, this is their big idea. And when we start challenging them On the customer discovery side, they'll say well, I've worked in this, I've worked in this, I've worked in this, I've worked in this, I've worked in this, I worked in the industry for X number of years and it always makes me chuckle because I'm like where have you been? Why just that many years?

Speaker 2:

But I've been in the industry for this many years and I know right, it's similar to what you said earlier talking to your friends, I've talked to my friends. I'm basing this on my own experience and sometimes it's even we've been building this out, which, of course, this is the death knell, right, we've been building this out based on this knowledge that we have of the industry, and they push back. I don't need to do the customer discovery. I already know and I slacked you about that during one of the sessions. This one's in a real danger zone because this is what they're talking about. So explain what that danger is better than I did.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think the danger with, especially in our industry, our collective industry, when you have 20, 30 years experience, you think you know everything.

Speaker 2:

Or 10.

Speaker 3:

Yeah or 10. You think you know I've been doing this for 20 years, like I already know. I know it and I love it when people quote well, if Henry Ford asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. And I love that because people bring it out of such terrible context, right, what the reality is if Henry Ford had done customer discovery, what he would have found out is people wanted to get from point A to point B faster and cheaper and safer. So that's the reality of it, right?

Speaker 3:

And I think how you frame the questions, how you ask the questions and how you exhibit massive detachment. You know it was kind of funny. We're talking about different ideas for some of our customer discovery workshops and I know one of the ideas I threw at you this, I think, would be like it'll turn into like a some kind of reality show is we take two founders and they have to do customer discovery on each other's ideas, right? So there's like 100% detachment from the outcome and in fact, it could get to where, like, I'm going to prove how bad your idea is right.

Speaker 3:

Like to me winning. I mean I would do it because I'm not okay sometimes, but I'd want to be like oh, I'm going to show you how terrible your idea is. I'm going to go out because we're discovering, with the sole purpose of showing you how bad your idea is, and all yours follows terrible, terrible ideas, right, but you know it would be a grand experiment to do that. Like a hypothesis swap.

Speaker 3:

Because one of the biggest things people do is they get attached to so much of their existing knowledge, their existing ideas and they miss it. They miss it 100%. And you know it's kind of like when you find out the customer doesn't care about something or it's not that important. That doesn't mean it's not a that doesn't mean that the opportunity goes away. It could mean that that's a different opportunity. You know, I think a lot of times.

Speaker 3:

You know, back in the day of Accenture and IBM, back when IT outsourcing was big, ibm would go into a customer and say, look, let us optimize your IT organization and see if it'd be like you know what, I don't really care, as long as they don't ask me for more money. I really don't care about it. It just needs to do the work they just I need to build a print access to the internet. Beyond that, I don't care about this works Like it's not a strategic part of our business. Then IBM said, well, great, let me buy it from you.

Speaker 3:

If you don't care about it, then you don't care if I just buy it from you and I run your IT for you. It's not core to your business. So let me do it. And IBM and Accenture and all these guys built great businesses being the outsourcing business, because through that process they probably figured out oh, people aren't going to outsource things that they care about. They're going to outsource things that they don't care about or they feel like they don't care about and they're not interested in doing it better. And so I think that open-mindedness is what really gets you to what the real issues are and what the real opportunities are.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I agree. I mean it's whether it's my graduate students or the incubator. I tell them all the same things. You started this incubator when you applied to this incubator. We're recording this now, on March 6. When you applied to this incubator three or four months ago, if you're the same place, our next session for the incubator will be in two days. If you're the same place on March 8, as you were when you applied for this incubator, there's a big problem. If you predicted the path from whenever you applied to March 8, and you were accurate in that prediction, there's a problem. It means you haven't challenged, You're too attached. You haven't challenged the hypothesis. You haven't done the work to understand that value is in the eye of the beholder, that customer discovery piece where the customer tells you hey, I care about this, I don't care about this. The IBM example, obviously, is a great example. You discover other opportunities and make pivots.

Speaker 2:

So those are my favorite projects that go through the incubator, that make those pivots.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and that's the idea, Like if you joined it and you don't get anything out of it, like then you weren't open to the idea. I love it too when people reach a point where they said, hey, we have proven our affirmative hypothesis. Yeah, I'm like great. Well, now I want you to disprove the negative hypothesis. I'm like what? Because it's not the same To affirm the positive hypothesis. It's not the same, as it's like oh well, the negative has to be untrue as well. And then you learn a whole other thing around that, and so I think you have to just be that, this idea of getting excited about going and building something without having all the information, because the other thing you might find is that, yes, there is an opportunity, there is a problem, there is a pain point, but it's not a big enough of a pain that I really care about.

Speaker 2:

Right, or anybody can do it, it's interesting.

Speaker 3:

We do our demo day, and the most interesting thing about the demo day is, if you have done it well, everyone in that room will be after you, because they'll get like, ok, these guys really understand the problem, they've really figured it out, and then they're like, well, we haven't even been able to crack this nut. I need to talk to you, and I think that's one of those things that and, like I said, it's really really hard If you're a large electrical contractor and you go to your GC and say, hey, I don't understand. What are you guys thinking about? Project management software, what? What are you talking about? You don't need to use your computer. I've known you for 30 years. You barely know how to use a computer and you want to talk to me about technology? Oh, you want to talk to me about AI, sir, like you just got off your BlackBerry last year, and so there's all that stuff that I think. Well, I like to be critical and challenging of people.

Speaker 3:

I do feel like one of the things I did learn is that I think it is your impossible for corporates to do their own customer or market discovery and one of their benefits besides hiring someone to do it for them like us is maybe you outsource that to a startup. Hey, this startup is doing something thematically that we really like, that we've been exploring. Why don't we piggyback off their customer discovery, like it's OK to invest in a startup just to learn Right, maybe I don't get a return out of it, maybe for $100,000, I'm going to learn something because they're really good at customer discovery. I'm going to learn a bunch from them that I couldn't on my own.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a really great point. I mean, somehow, if you're actually going to do it, actually going to do it right, then you're going to invest something into customer discovery. So what is that something? Is it in-house, Is it outsourced? Is it a startup that's really good at it? That's a really great way to frame that. If you're listening in on this discussion, maybe somehow I don't know how this works.

Speaker 2:

If you missed the beginning of the tape, the beginning of the recording. Kp and I are unpacking one of his LinkedIn posts and it reads like this the linchpin activity for a founder is customer discovery. They should personally perform these activities. Customer discovery is the single most important activity for corporate innovation. However, I have learned that it is near impossible for this to be done quote, unquote, in-house. Why Internal teams don't have that muscle. Best case, they end up selling the client. Worst case, they confuse their customer. Existing customers have a hard time being candid with an existing relationship. So, as KP and I have unpacked this post and this is one of my favorite activities of the week I get to sit down with KP and say, hey, what were you thinking? You know what inspired this post on LinkedIn?

Speaker 2:

If you were listening to this episode, you heard about a lot of things. You heard about our startup incubator. You heard about our customer discovery workshops. You heard about the fact that KP is going around and speaking and consulting and advising a lot of firms around the country. If you have questions about any of that, obviously reach out to us. Shadowpartnersco is the website. Reach out to us and we can fill in the blanks on any of these and more topics. But before we go, I think KP be remiss if I didn't ask you, because by the time this gets published or this podcast gets published, your book may be published. So you want to talk for just a minute about what your book is and what it's about and why we should read it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, basically, I spent the last year and my entire life talking to people. I think that's what people ask me what I do for a living. I guess I do customer discovery for a living perpetually right and what I really started a pattern out was there's. You know, I believe this AI thing that we're in is actually a chemical and that it's not. It's like the invention of electricity and what we're seeing is near term applications. Is a light bulb? It's like, ooh, that's a light bulb, and now we're all running around trying to figure out how many candles can we replace with light bulbs. That's the extent of how we're thinking about AI.

Speaker 3:

I benefit from having a lot of knowledge and experience and access to a lot of things that are happening, and I think people are missing the point there, and part of it is this fear of AI is going to take my job right, and so what I cover in the book is like lots of examples where new technologies came in and everybody thought they were going to lose their job and it turns out they didn't lose their job, they got better jobs. So, partly to build some comfort around in this AI supercycle. If you're just going to be afraid, I can't really help you with that get a better therapist. But beyond that, like here are a new set of skills that you need to develop in an AI-driven world. Right, the skills you've had are not going to future-proof you in the future.

Speaker 3:

If you can type 200 words per minute, that might have been really relevant before. That's not going to future-proof you're you know with an AI world. So the book really covers that and gives people guidance on like here's the you know, here's what you need to be thinking about. Here's the skills you need to be thinking about.

Speaker 3:

My publisher said it's called building the intangible enterprise, the key critical skills required to thrive in an. Ai-driven world.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I cut you off. There You're going to say your publisher was telling you something.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that he felt, you know, like that. It's an optimistic book around the future of our business and humanity and all that which you know feels good. Yeah, Well, I mean that's change.

Speaker 2:

This is your alter ego. Wrote this book.

Speaker 3:

Generally, I meet with people. I just scared the crap out of them. That's like what I yeah that's my sport, but this is the softer side of things.

Speaker 2:

The softer side of KP creating the intangible enterprise, the critical skills required to thrive in an AI-driven world. If you want to get on the presale list for the book, go to KP's personal website, go to KPreadyco so K-P-R-E-D-D-Yco KPreadyco slash books and you can sign up to be on the presale list. But maybe by the time this podcast hits the internets, the book may actually be available. But KPreadyco slash books is where to find out more about creating the intangible enterprise. Kp, as always, thanks for joining me today and unpacking this LinkedIn post about customer discovery.

Speaker 3:

All right, thanks, jeff.

Speaker 1:

We're tuning in to another episode on the Shadow Network here with KP Ready as always. Remember you can connect with KP and other innovators in the AEC and CRE industry in the Shadow Partners community. Go to bitly slash Shadow Partners community to find out more today. Until next time.

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