Years ago, I worked for an HR tech company born amid the 2008-09 recession.

We offered a talent management system purpose-built for restaurants, retail, and hospitality.

Many people were looking for work, and our technology helped employers capture and sift through hundreds and thousands of job applications to find the right employees for their businesses.

The financial crisis subsided as time progressed, and there were fewer unemployed people. Our customers began to receive fewer applications for their open jobs.

In fact, labor became so scarce that these companies began to adopt entirely new tactics to attract talent.

Instead of sorting through piles of inbound applications, recruiters now needed to market open positions and lure employees away from their existing employers.

The market shifted. Almost overnight.

We debated whether to change the course we were already on given the increasing pressure from our customers.

Meanwhile, our competitors were quick to respond. They released new features addressing the new market reality.

Recruiting had become a marketing-driven effort for HR teams we had served so well during the downturn.

Within a few months, the battle was over.

And we were out of the game.

We lost.

I thought we were customer-centric.

But the sad truth is that we were only customer-centric in our day-to-day interactions with customers, not institutionally or strategically.

The lesson?

Listening is an organizational competency—part of the company culture. And it's critical because customers are a bellwether for where the market is headed.

But listening isn't enough on its own.

We must also act on what we hear. And with urgency.

In SaaS, we're not canoeing on a serene lake. We're paddling down a Class V rapid.

The markets we serve are in constant flux. And there are countless ways to screw things up.

So we must be vigilant, and we must constantly adjust our path and plan to make it through the gauntlet.

If we're not listening to and innovating for customers, we’re surface level customer-centric. And we're dying.

Innovation is the only way to win in the long run.

“We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.”

- Jeff Bezos

Well said, Jeff, as always.



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