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Reference Customers: an Important Step towards Successful Business
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Business and Economic Studies.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Aim: The first customer is important because that it’s in many cases the only objective evidence that your product or service works in real life and that someone is willing to pay for it. The first customer is your first reference.


The aim of this study is to:

  • Investigate how 7 start-up companies in the ICT-business developed reference.
  • Establishing recommendations on what to focus on when creating reference customers.
  • Present complementary recommendations for start-up companies regarding important factors, besides those investigated against the theory, which have been discovered to be important when building a successful company.


Method: The method in this study is a combination of a case study and cross-sectional study with qualitative data. The questions in the interviews were predefined and complemented with open ended questions according to the answers on the pre-defined questions. The data collected, the answers, were written down, summarized and analyzed regarding whether they did or did not support the theoretical statements investigated. A theoretical statement could be supported or not supported, partially or strongly


Result & Conclusions: The access to a professional network and good social skills are most important when establishing the first reference. Business skills can be developed during the process but the recommendation is to acquire or secure them as soon as possible. How to achieve the desired states has also been concluded.


Suggestions for future research: The largest limitation is the sample size of the data. Less than 10 companies were interviewed and some of the suggested statements can’t be significantly either confirmed or deferred. The study was also limited to one round of interviews. A study, with two rounds of interviews and a larger set of companies interviewed is suggested for further research. An extended study could also cover companies that didn’t survive the IT crash of 2000 and investigate if the suggested parameters and strategies were present and deployed or implemented.




Contribution of the thesis: The investigation has verified the importance of networks, customer type (brand name) and social capital when establishing a reference. It has also showed that the skills needed to develop a business doesn’t need to be present when company is established since it can be acquired and secured during the development of the first reference. It has also contributed with a set of recommendation for entrepreneurs in general not only regarding the establishment of reference customers where the most important recommendation is to build and maintain the personal and professional networks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 63 p.
Keyword [en]
Reference Customer, Networks, Social Capital, Brand Name, Business Development, Start-up
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-9224Archive number: E3BA: DiVA 23/2011OAI: diva2:415417
Subject / course
Business administration
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
Available from: 2011-06-15 Created: 2011-05-06 Last updated: 2011-06-15Bibliographically approved

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