Every one of us at some stage has passed a window or looked in a catalogue or seen a new business promoted and thought, “that was my idea!”. The difference being that an entrepreneur took the idea and ran with it. They seized the day, threw caution to the wind, built a field of dreams and made something from nothing. Or did they?
What we didn’t see as we walked passed or looked in or read, was the number of others that had the idea and had taken the leap but had failed to make it into a successful business. The entrepreneur that succeeded, was no more courageous, they simply did it better.
So…. how do you do it better?
In every industry there are workers that see the faults and the opportunities. They have listened to those that say “but we have always done it this way” or sat at lunch with the “you cant do that”, nay sayers.
Lets put them aside. Lets ignore them and say “what if” instead. Imagine you got up tomorrow morning and arrived at work and it didn’t exist. In its place was a green field, a whiteboard, a few pens and a box of Lego. What would you build with the knowledge of your industry behind you but without the constraints of the naysayers the bosses and the budgets? What magnificent Lego tower would you build in the place of the business you once knew?
To start off, you need to decide what it is you see as missing, what you want to build, what the perfect world scenario would be. It can be grandiose or humble. It can be a change the world moment or a build a better mousetrap moment. It is yours for the building and if you can conceive it you can achieve it.
Once you have a clear picture in your mind it is critical to ask yourself a very simple, but often forgotten question.
Who are my customers and what are their needs?
This isn’t achieved by saying “I want to sell to the 18 to 40 age group. It is about defining who you see them as being and what you see as being their problem that you can solve. For example, lets grab the whiteboard and the pens and imagine that your target audience is Gen Y and your product is training for those seeking to start a business. If you did a quick pen sketch of your client and their needs it might look something like the table below.
Keep in mind you may be wrong in your assumptions, and that’s ok. The assumptions will be tested, changed or discarded along the way. The object is not to be right, it is to seek to understand. It is though this understanding that your business will meet a need and be all that it can be.
The success of your business will be determined by your ability to truly recognize and understand your customer and their needs.
So, now that we know who we are building for, you can start to build your business!
Just like any building, if your foundations are not sound, your building will fail.
So, take the time and get them right.
Lets wander back out onto the green field gaze wondrously and say, “ If I am to build this business,
- what do I want it to achieve?
- what are the gaps and how can I fill them?
- how has it been done badly in the past ? (so I know what to avoid)
- what will make my customers love my business?
The business concept, identification of business need and the understanding of your target audience, are the key elements of your Business Plan. In relation to the building concept, it is the architect’s drawings that roadmaps the challenges ahead, the materials to be used, the target dates and who is responsible for each component.
Part of the plan includes your “due diligence”. This is the hard yards you have put in to understand your market through research and benchmarking your industry. This tests your assumptions and establishes if what you want to build already exists and if so, what are the operational costs involved in delivering on your vision. It is also extremely valuable, if not critical, to take a cheeky peek over the fence to see what your opposition is doing and whether they are doing it well, or not so well. If you take the time to do this part well, your foundations will be sound. If done badly, this is the part that you will always look back on and say, if only I had done X, Y or Z.
Once created, your business plan is a “living document”, open to change and reflecting of current circumstances. Just like the architects drawings, it is looked at daily and adjusted to reflect new opportunities or potential dangers.
Out with the Lego!
Each pillar of your business reflects the core components of what it is you want to deliver. Perhaps it could be that the business has pillars such as:
Each pillar of your business is a reflection of you and the core principles that you wish to bring to the market. They are your unique point of difference and the part of your business that makes you feel whole, or proud or satisfied.
The infill between the pillars might be pretty and made up of all of the colours you have left in your Lego box. This part is up to you.
Remember along the way that you are not alone. There are a huge number of resources available and the value of asking help from an advisor or Mentor cannot be understated. Their role, their business experiences and the Lego house they built is great value in supporting you to build your business
If you plan it carefully, if you research it thoroughly, if you work hard, if you build something that people want, they will come. I for one, will!
David Gregory is the CEO of the Small Business Mentoring Service www.sbms.org.au , an organisation that has supported thousands of small businesses for over 25 years. SBMS has over 140 Mentors in Victoria and NSW. He is also the CEO of The Small Business Institute. www.tsbi.com.au