The biggest challenge every entrepreneur faces
Note: This article originally appeared in Fortune Insider.
The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Jeff Ruby, founder and CEO of Newtopia.
If you build it, they won’t come, especially in health. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned to date, and something I wish I knew before starting Newtopia. Despite my love of the 1989 American drama Field of Dreams, which coined the memorable phrase, “If you build it, he will come,” I’ve learned that innovating and building something wonderful doesn’t always mean you’ll attract customers. Even if it’s something that truly helps people to live healthier lives, it doesn’t mean they’ll want to use it. Thinking through product-market fit, distribution, branding, payer motivation, cost per acquisition, and return on investment in any startup is critical, but especially so in health, when the service or product is extremely intimate and personal.
Once you build your product, the hard work really begins. You have to first prove that it works, which typically requires several pilot projects and trials. You spend a lot of time building something in secret and have to undergo a shift in attitude in order to put it all out there and prove it works. Provided the pilot results meet or exceed expectations, the next step is to build confidence amongst early customers or partners in your ability to deliver. That requires incredible relationship–building skills and patience. If your product or service is especially innovative, you have to be prepared for the onslaught of criticism, skepticism, and negative spin campaigns from vested interests in the status quo, or from those who have built personal brands on simply castigating anything new.
When you add it all up, the hardest part isn’t necessarily building the new idea, product, or service—it is persevering through distribution strategy, proving that it works, and building acceptance and early believers who are critical to actually transforming what you’ve built into a viable business. That’s when you know you’ve built your Field of Dreams, and is something I’ve had to learn through experience.
Jeff Ruby is the founder and CEO of Newtopia, an employee health engagement platform leading the way to personalized health through a personalized, holistic approach. Ruby also cofounded Cleveland Clinic Canada, Life Screen Centres Inc. and Genetic Diagnostics Inc.