Sometimes the simplest questions are the most profound.
Like “who are you” or “what do you do”. Why the philosophy this week?
Well, I’m helping my Goddaughter start a business. She’s truly gifted with horses and loves teaching riders and training horses. The recent Olympic equestrian events are her dream job. She has a dream to work with horses, she has expertise and experience riding and teaching. So how do we turn that into a business? What should she DO?
That may seem like an overly simplistic question… she should find people that have horses and that want to ride… and help them, right? On the surface that’s correct. Unfortunately, starting an actual business requires much more detail than “go find customers”.
The question of what a business really does may seem so obvious that it can easily be overlooked in the daily grind of running it. That sounds strange, I know. But look at Emily. Who needs her expertise and is willing to pay for what she does? (Another simple, but profound, question). For some businesses it may seem straight forward, for others it may appear more complex. I, as it happens, run a training company. That sounds simple enough. However, in addition to creating really cool courses and workshops people can take, we also offer a range of consulting services. We help people create or improve presentations, we write copy, help design sales processes, assist others to improve their own training courses, as well as some technology consulting thrown in for good measure. That can get complicated fast. Where do I focus my limited resources to get maximum results in finding and servicing my market for all those services? If I do a lot of different things how do I decide who my market actually IS? Knowing exactly what I do is imperative for me to answer those questions. Not what I would like to do… what I actually do.
Okay, let’s look at Emily and her equestrian start-up as an example. Her business seems simple… until you start looking at how to get people to pay. Where should she focus marketing efforts. Is there a specific type of customer that she works better with? Is it better to have students with their own horses, or have them train on hers? Should she give lessons only at the family farm, or only travel to other people’s facilities, or both? In all these cases knowing exactly WHAT she is going to offer them is the key to answering those questions. If she based her business on just wanting to have a “horse business” she could very quickly get pulled into 100 different and distracting directions. Clients can, and will, ask for things you’ve never thought of before. So when a client asks her if she will travel to a regional dressage show with their daughter next weekend as her coach, she needs a way to decide if that makes sense to her business. Maybe that’s a good idea, maybe it’s not a good use of her time. If she knows that doesn’t fit with what her core business is then she can make that decision quickly.
So, know what you do. Then you can figure out who you can do it for. It will save you lots of time, money and energy chasing windmills that don’t do a thing for your business in the long run.