(This post does NOT pertain to fundraising.  If you’re fundraising, avoid naysayers like the plague.)

All too often, entrepreneurs are told to find their customer(s) and then focus on them, and them only.  I have an alternative recommendation:

Once you find your customer, seek out “over-the-hill naysayers”.

I recently experienced this first-hand: I myself am seeking additional advisers to improve upon the services I offer to entrepreneurs.  And one prospect sent me a lengthy response, suggesting at the end “The last thing you need is an over-the-hill naysayer raining on your parade!”

Naysayers demand specificity – telling you it will never work for that customer or that company X would never be interested in acquiring your business – they force you to tell a succinct and convincing story.  Naysayers demand confidence – humans are adept at surrounding themselves with like-minded people; doing so improves the chances of survival by building trust networks, and also makes us feel better about ourselves.  Naysayers nibble away at your psyche, and will erode confidence like waves hitting the sand.  But those weak points revealed are in themselves, weak and need to be addressed!  So long as the naysayer is thoughtful and intelligent, try not to allow yourself to prejudge or to disregard their comments as stale.

I think that by listening to naysayers, you’ll be better prepared to expand your product to broader customer sets, and thereby improve the probability of finding a scalable business.

So spend your time building great product for your customers, but at the same time, bring on a few naysayers too.  Listen to what they have to say, and always remember that you can ignore them all you like…. after all, you already have customers!