Navigating Customer Relationships: An “Entrepreneurial Foxtrot”

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Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur, derived from the French word “entreprendre”, describes one who initiates or undertakes an endeavor, and assumes associated risk(s) in doing so.  BRITE exists to help mitigate some of those risks, and incorporating lessons learned fellow entrepreneurs and investors.

Foxtrot.

It’s a fun word.  But what is a “foxtrot” anyway?  Many of us don’t use it in our daily vocabulary.

Foxtrot – the word picture.

Consider the word picture it paints.  A red fox trotting along the edge of the woods, often moving with speed but also light afoot.   Typically, the fox trots along scanning the grasses for prey while remaining nimble to avoid being hunted.  Should entrepreneurs also move quickly yet stay light afoot?   

Close red fox in nature (Vulpes vulpes)

Foxtrot – the ballroom dance.

Two slow steps, two fast steps, and a careful balance of leading and relaxing.  When done well, the dancing couple makes a difficult dance look graceful and smooth.  But, how do you avoid stepping on toes, or spinning the wrong way, or what about the embarrassment of not being smooth at times?  Should entrepreneurs balance leading and relaxing with customers as they win and grow their customer base?   We at BRITE help avoid steps on toes and help with finding dance partners.  

pair athletes dancers ballroom dancing. black tailcoat and white dress

Foxtrot – Equestrian anyone?

Horses can walk or trot in a variety of ways, and a foxtrot is where the front leg/hoof steps down just ahead of the diagonal back leg/hoof.  The effect is a stately prance that carries powerful animal (& often rider) ahead with good momentum.  Should the early stage entrepreneur make strides and carry momentum forward by leading and landing the solution just before the customer use? 

Beautiful bay Andalusian horse running in paddock.

Foxtrot – Pilot Aviation Code.

Pilots and air traffic control have used phonetic words for alphabet letters to avoid misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Those with aircraft or military backgrounds may have deeper appreciation to the many uses of “foxtrot”, but we won’t open that bag of cats here.  As for entrepreneurs, early customer misunderstandings and miscommunication can be very costly.  To what level of precision should an entrepreneur ensure clear, consistent communication with her/his early customers?  

Side view portrait of pilot in cabin of modern plane, shot with flash, copy space

The Entrepreneurial Foxtrot

As hinted in the uses of “foxtrot” above, the entrepreneur must dance with the voice of the customer, often leading but also relaxing and moving with the customer.  

Young Entrepreneurs Working at the Office.

An early stage founder moves with momentum and purpose, but also treads nimbly and with certainty, much like the horse and the fox.  Sure, there are tactics and techniques for capturing voice of the customer, and priorities and finances (which usually look like massive constraints) to foxtrotting with customers.  When founders spend so much energy and effort and building prior to truly engaging with customers, it ends up in frustration and the exasperation of founders and investors.  We here at BRITE have years of experience and countless client relationships we’ve successfully navigated, particularly in the early traction and growth years, and we know how to avoid saying “whiskey tango foxtrot” at any point through the process.

This as a blog article, intended to stimulate thought and discussion.  

  • What analogies do you come up with?  
  • Where do you take point with my foxtrot analogies?  
  • For founders, what have you found helpful/hinderance for VOC?  
  • How can we help you in your Entrepreneurial Foxtrot? 

E-mail me at jeff@brite.org or connect with me on LinkedIn.  

Jeff Rockwood serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and the vice president of technology acceleration.  He is thrilled to work with founders to achieve the next milestones as they dance with customers, lead the culture of their teams and their boards, and ultimately serve communities thru economic development.  

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