The Entrepreneur Insiders 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, “How do you stay optimistic when your company is struggling?” is written by Sharat Sharan, co-founder and CEO of ON24.
All of us entrepreneurs know that running a company will come with moments of success and failure. In fact, I believe it’s the tough times that ultimately define winning organizations. That’s why, when challenges arise, I stay positive by taking a step back and focusing on what’s most important: our customers.
I’m a very hands-on CEO, and I think it’s important to be tuned in to the daily operations. However, in paying such close attention to company details, it’s easy to get caught up in an internal setback and forget about the outside impact of our technology. I think getting out of the office and talking to customers is the best way to work through difficult times.
In 2013, ON24 made a significant pivot from a full-service to a self-service model. It was the right move, and it was a risky move. I knew our customers would benefit from the agility, speed, and customization capabilities of a self-service platform, yet they would worry about losing the high-touch experience they relied on from ON24. This was a big change, and I couldn’t get our customers’ feedback just by sending out an email.
So, I decided to get on the road and hear right from our customers—what they liked about the change, but also what concerned them. I put a special customer advisory board in place to share our new vision and get their direct feedback. I joined my sales team in their briefings to help explain to prospective customers why we made the change and answer their questions directly. I met with customers and partners at industry conferences to share how our new approach fit into the larger digital marketing ecosystem.
And, you know what? We learned that our customers felt empowered by the independence they gained from our self-service platform. The real issue stemmed from the growing pains of developing new skills, hiring the right talent, and reorganizing their teams. Uncovering that insight was a game-changer and guides how we engage with our customers today—providing support services as needed, holding user conferences, regularly sharing best practices, and convening an active support community. This year, our customers will run over 120,000 webinars on our platform, which wouldn’t have been possible without the technology shift four years ago.
Now, whenever I’m discouraged, I remind myself that our company’s success is defined by our customer’s success. It’s not by accident that brands like Merck (MRK) and Microsoft (MSFT) trust ON24 as their technology partner. Being a part of their success is my motivation to keep at it.
So, when your company gets off track, don’t retreat to the office. Resist the urge to obsess over the balance sheet or take negative feedback personally. Instead, start engaging the very people who have helped you build your business—your customers—and get their perspective. You’ll not only find inspiration to work through your problem, but you may even find the solution.