The One Thing Your Business Idea Needs

Is Your Customer Service Invisible

There’s really only one thing you need to start a business.

It’s the one thing that’s more important than your genius, your work ethic, the honesty of your partners, your credit rating, your friends’ cash, your charm, your business plan, your logo, your office space, your website, your distribution strategy, your manufacturing deal, or your very cool iPhone app.

You can have all that and still never get off the ground. Everything might be just right, but you’ll still go wrong. There’s just one thing you need. No matter what anybody tells you or tries to sell you, there’s only one silver bullet. The one thing you need to start your business is a customer. Sounds easy; it isn’t. Most new small businesses don’t have one.

I’ve had plenty of brilliant ideas that were perfect in every way except for one tiny little detail: these brilliant ideas failed to actually attract a customer outside of immediate family, friends, employees, and very loyal dogs. No matter how smart we thought those ideas were, they didn’t attract a customer or bring more of them back more often to buy more—and that’s the Holy Grail of small business, or any business, for that matter.

Every small business needs that first customer. This seems obvious. But the thing is that 80% of small businesses miss this obvious point every year. Each empty storefront you see is another example of somebody who missed the point. Those who master the basics can succeed in any market.

Adapted from One More Customer by Fran Tarkenton and Scott Miller

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as,, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.