Published on:

5th Oct 2016

024: John Mullins - Your Customers Can Be Your VCs

John Mullins is an award-winning teacher, author and scholar. John is an Associate Professor of Management Practice in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School and is recognized as a thought leader in entrepreneurship.

On this episode, John and I discuss customer-funded businesses and some of the novel ways business owners can fund their businesses.

To begin the interview John and I discussed his most recent book, The Customer-Funded Business. the idea for this book began while writing a chapter in his first book, Getting to Plan B, about Costco's innovative business model.

John knew there were a lot of interesting funding models like Costco's out there that worked, but for most entrepreneurs it seemed as though their go-to method to acquire funding was to simply find a VC. There are other ways!

John discusses 5 different models so you can fund a business without using venture capital, family money, a bank, or an angel investor.

The first way is to be a matchmaker, where you just bring buyers and sellers together, but you never have your hands on the product itself.

The second is the pay-in-advance model, which is what Costco currently does. 

The third way is a subscription model, like Netflix and the Wall Street journal, which many consumers are already familiar with.

The fourth is a scarcity model, which is what the clothing company Zara uses with its customers by only having a limited amount of each style. When it's gone, it's gone.

The fifth and final model is the service-to-product model like Bill Gates and Paul Allen did with Microsoft. When they first started out, they were designing custom programs for specific tasks. A lot of the code was the same, so they made it into a standard product that was scalable and affordable.

Of these five, which one is the best for you? It varies based on the product you're selling. In order to successfully execute any one of these business models, you have to be really customer-focused.

Before you even attempt to pitch your product to a VC, you have to pitch your product to the actual customer first. What most people don't think about is that the customer can also be your VC as well.



Interview Links:

John Mullins

The Customer-Funded Business by John Mullins

Getting to Plan B – John Mullins and Randy Komisar

John on London Business School

More Resources: ScalingUpBusiness.com:  Learn about how growth coaching can help you and and your business see big results. Scaling Up Business Growth Workshops: Take the first step to mastering the Rockefeller Habits by attending one of our workshops. Bill on YouTube: Short videos to keep you Scaling Up.


Did you enjoy today's episode? If so then head over to iTunes and leave a review. It helps other business leaders discover the Scaling Up Business Podcast so they can also benefit from the knowledge shared in these podcasts.


Scaling Up is the best-selling book, by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles, on how the fastest growing companies succeed where so many others fail. My name is Bill Gallagher and I'm a certified Gazelles business coach.

We help leadership teams to get the 4 Decisions around People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash right so that they can Scale Up successfully and beat the odds of business growth success. Our 4 Decisions are all part of the Rockefeller Habits 2.0 (from the original best-selling business book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits).

Listen for free

Show artwork for Scaling Up Business Podcast

About the Podcast

Scaling Up Business Podcast
Scaling Up Business is all about how a few companies make it...and why the rest don’t. Our podcast shows are drawn from the lessons of our coaching clients, coaching partners, and the leading authors that contribute to our Conferences and the Scaling Up best selling book by Verne Harnish, and the Team at Gazelles.

We’ll share practical tools and techniques for building an industry-dominating business. These approaches have been honed over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives and helping them navigate the increasing complexities that come with scaling up a venture.

We want to turn what can feel like an anchor, into the wind at your back — helping you create a business where the team is engaged; the customers are doing your marketing; and everyone is making money.

Each episode of the Scaling Up Business show focuses on one of the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. We'll share the tools and methods that have been used by more than 40,000 firms around the globe to scale their companies successfully -- many to $1 billion and beyond.

Running a business is ultimately about freedom. The Scaling Up Business show tells leaders how to get their organizations moving in sync, to create something significant, and still enjoy the ride.

About your host

Profile picture for William Gallagher

William Gallagher