Starting a new venture is hard. You need a vision,
a roadmap to get you there, and empathy.

Empathy is everything.

See our work
Stephen Mead

Customer empathy and the ability to listen, when your instincts tell you to do something different, can be a hard pill to swallow. Empathy is the hardest thing to gauge and in some ways the easiest to discard.

People building a business will often spend vast sums of cash on hunches.

Over the past few years I’ve seen companies move from thriving small businesses into stagnant growth, as it’s easy to do.

Fuel’s job is to help you to take risks, but also to keep the end goal in sight – the customer.

I’ve been designing websites and products now for two decades and every year I see people come into the studio and tell me how they, and the product they are launching, are going to be the next big thing. Some of them went on to be ‘grand fromages’ within their chosen ventures, but some did not. I’ve learnt a lot from their successes and failures.

What I found was that the ones who listened to input before making decisions were the ones that went on to have greater success. Great leaders need an empathetic ear. These are some of the strategies the successful businesses have taught me.

Focus your attention outwards.

Don’t Disagree With The Customer. Remember you are not your customer. They will provide the revenue. They will shape the product.

Don’t spend all your budget on the product.

Mvp, Mvp, Mvp. Take any profits you get and plough them back into the product. If you don’t create profits you’ll still have some capital left to either promote more, or pivot.

Don’t try and smash apps together.

Wouldn’t uber be great if it was combined with whatsapp. I’ve got $35,000 – can you do it?
Yes we can make you something similar, but does it have a market? Why are you taking on a market leader with an idea that somebody is doing better than you?

So where are the next opportunities?

Look for niches and new consumer behaviours. Pay attention to scientific research about behavioural patterns. Malcolm Gladwell has made a career out of this.

Read more about Malcolm Gladwell


Ideas don’t come from thin air, they come from research. Whether it’s looking into journals or talking to people, they are hard work. They are years in the making going through research, looking for patterns and insight. Learn how other people identify opportunity. If your idea is good enough and unique enough it will break through. Malcolm Gladwell is famous for his 10,000 hours theory. It might take you that long to find your niche.

Don’t expect ideas to come to you. Paul Mcartney has written thousands of songs in a 50 year career. Only once did he dream a fully-fledged melody. ‘Yesterday’ has gone onto be one of the most covered songs in history, but this shows that inspiration comes once in a lifetime even to one of the greatest songwriters in history.

Less is more, do one thing better than anyone else.

Don’t ask your friends and family for feedback, they will be nice to you. They will try and support your ideas. They want you to be a success. They aren’t your users. Make sure you keep your users in the loop at every stage. Test, listen and iterate.

Don’t get caught in trends. Remember wearables? They were the future until people realised they weren’t very useful.

Study how other people have done it before.

Here is a list of pitch decks from some of the biggest global startups in recent years. These are the decks they used to get venture capital investment. You’ll find that most of the decks are based on how behaviour is changing and how they, as companies, have identified consumer patterns.

Building businesses around change


Don’t give up. If you think you have something keep going.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time – Thomas Edison.”

Don’t settle.

Keep momentum going and don’t settle for anything other than what you need to drive the business forward. Reassess and reset your goals. Create 30, 60 and 90 day goals and keep to them.

If you have a team keep them driving forward by creating these 30, 60 and 90 day goals for them.

Make sure you get metrics for everything your fledgling company does.
“You can’t manage, nor improve, what you don’t measure. ”

Podcasts are a great way to get insights into startup culture.


Listen to story’s of how people got started, grew and sometimes fell into the trap of ego and avarice with their startup. Compelling, easy to digest and tons of advice from the people in the trenches. The Dov Charney (American apparel – Season 4, Episode 4, 5 and 6) story is amazing.

American Apparel made clothes that were stylish and affordable. It paid its garment workers wages well above the industry average. Dov started with just one retail store in 2003. By 2009 he had hundreds, in cities around the world. This story tells the tale of his downfall and his extraordinary behaviour.

Kevin Kostner was wrong, If you build it they will come.

No they won’t, unless they know you’re there. Look to your elders and betters when it comes to marketing. didn’t get to the top of the market by having the best product – they did it by marketing to the most people. All insurance companies know that the product is just the starting point.

That’s why TV advertising is saturated with insurance companies. They know that the products they sell are the same as everyone else’s. So they have to make sure the customer is front of mind when it comes to purchasing decisions.

Kevin Costner lied, if you build it they won't come.

About the author.

Stephen Mead, is a UX & Digital Consultant at Fuel Integrated.

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