June 13, 2014
How Committed Are You
Plymouth Rock holds a very important place in the history of the United States. This was the first place in the New World the pilgrims traveling from Great Britain came ashore. This represented the end of an incredible 3 month journey across the Atlantic ocean and the start of a new life. These early travelers were incredibly committed to accomplishing their goals.
So, clearly these early settlers were committed to their cause but how does this relate to us today and how can their commitment be related to small business? Let’s look at four ways their commitment to their goals affected their decisions.
They Believed In Their Cause
This small group of courageous individuals were absolutely committed to their goals. They believed in their cause to such an extent they were willing to accept great trials. Regardless of your opinion of their beliefs and their choices, it is undeniable they were willing to do whatever the they needed to because they believed in the reason.
As a small business owner, founder, it is also absolutely essential that before you can see your business become successful you need to believe in what you’re doing. It may seem simple and rather obvious but consider the reason why you’re doing what you do. Do you believe in the cause of your business? Or have you lost your focus and now simply do what you think needs to be done to be successful? You must believe in the product, if now then you are not truly committed. (Not to mention you’ll find very little personal satisfaction in your work).
Your work must be fun. You must enjoy what you do and you must believe in what you are doing. A popular quote which most of you will know is applicable here:
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
But it’s much more than just believing in your cause. It’s taking the next step and being willing to give up everything to accomplish your cause.
They Sacrificed Everything
The Pilgrims were willing and ready to sacrifice everything to accomplish their goal. This is easy to see as an extreme level of commitment however, often times, this is overlooked when thinking about the Pilgrims and their journey to the colonies (soon to be the United States). The conditions they were leaving in England and the conditions they were accepting when moving to the colonies were exact opposites. And yet, due to their beliefs and their level of commitment they were ready and willing to sacrifice everything they had. They sacrificed lifestyle, friends, personal health, prosperity, and even loved ones for their cause.
Small business founders face difficulties and trials that others may never see. If you’re a small business owner then you understand the feeling of a bank account with a zero (negative) balance and the uncertainty of how to pay employees (definitely no payment for yourself). And yet you must continue. If you are committed to the success of your business you must be willing to sacrifice everything.
“The entrepreneurial life is one of challenge, work, dedication, perseverance, exhilaration, agony, accomplishment, failure, sacrifice, control, powerlessness… but ultimately, extraordinary satisfaction.”
– David S. Rose
They Expected Hardships
It would have been foolish for these brave individuals to assume everything would go smoothly. They went ahead with their plans to travel across the entire Atlantic ocean full-knowing they would experience loss, they would be forced to sacrifice their old lives, friendships, and even family. The both knew and accepted these hardships as part of their commitment to achieving their goals. This is important. Many places and historical records document the exact conditions they would encounter during their journey and upon their arrival. These travelers were fully aware of exactly what they could expect. No surprises.
Small business owners especially must be cautious of this point. Plan for success, but always, always, understand and be aware of any associated risks. If you know the hardships you can expect to face you can prepare yourself better to handle them. There is nothing wrong with looking at the potential pitfalls and preparing a way to navigate through them. This isn’t a sign of unbelief or pessimism in your business’ success, but rather a very clear display of your commitment.
“Never sacrifice planning for failure in order to appear optimistic, this will only leave you looking foolish and unprepared.”
They Followed Their Dreams
One last important correlation we’ll draw between the pilgrims and small business is quite possibly the easiest to see and the most pleasant to discuss. The pilgrims believed in their cause but even deeper than a belief in a cause, they took action and followed their dreams. It seems almost poetic but it is a very real situation. Rather than sitting back and talking about change, bemoaning their current state, and dreaming lofty wishful perfect outcomes, they boldly committed to following their dreams. They made plans (with calculated risks), understood the sacrifices, and the hardships to come and they still chased their idyllic utopian society.
Small business owners dream big. We all believe in an endless vast open space where anything is possible and with a little hard work our dreams can become a reality. Dreaming up ideas to change the world is something done on a daily basis. The part which comes next (which the first travelers to the new world actively did) the difficult task of planning and executing on their dreams and actively pursuing the dream is the hard part. This is the part small business owners can learn and grow from. As you dream (dream big) be sure to make plans, calculate risks, understand the sacrifices, and expect the hardships to come (believe me, they will come).
“I think if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to dream big
and then dream bigger.”
– Howard Shultz
Life wasn’t easy for the early settlers and life certainly isn’t easy for small business owners. But we should continue to chase after our dreams. Because at the end of the day, it’s really the same dream of the pilgrims we’re still chasing today. The American Dream.
A Final Thought
I encourage you to examine the lives of these people and the above aspects. Explore what they endured, what they believed and begin to understand the commitment they demonstrated. Ask yourself, as a small business owner, how many of these same areas apply to your life. Answer those questions and you’ll see just how committed you are as well.
April 14, 2014
Understanding Your User
It’s easy to build a business to meet your needs. You know an industry, a market, or a technology and you want to use that knowledge to build a business. Don’t fall into the trap of designing your marketing plan around yourself.
Not the Man in the Mirror
You are not selling to yourself. Or rather, you shouldn’t be. Instead of talking about your business as if you were talking to someone who understands everything you do – focus on finding your target audience and then understanding what they do or don’t know. Never forget you are the expert. If a user understands everything you do then they most likely don’t need your services.
Growing your understanding of your audience is easy to do, but it takes time and more importantly it takes thought. Many small businesses fail to understand the importance which should be placed on understanding the user better. You need to stop looking at yourself but focus instead on the ones who need you. Here’s a few ways to help you get started.
It’s very easy to find out what other people think or know about you or your business by asking someone from a different age demographic. This is in no way disparaging the elderly. Rather we’re highlighting the differences in life lessons and experiences between generations. Tell an older person what you do and see what questions they have. Be sure to write them down and then figure out how to improve your pitch to answer those questions before they ask them. Ask and then listen. That’s important, you shouldn’t ask them then continue directly on with your own thoughts. You need to ask and then patiently, quietly, listen to what they say. They have different views and different life experiences and if you truly listen you’ll find incredible opportunities for improving yourself.
Most kids play make-believe when growing up. I know my kids do it all the time. I laugh sometimes as I overhear them. They have completely different lives, new names, new ages, new likes and dislikes. And all just for fun in their game. What an absolutely perfect example of what small businesses should do. Pretend to be your own ideal customer. Give yourself a new name, a new age, a new life. Figure out what this “new you” is looking for and then figure out how your business meets a need. It’s a simple concept, for kids it’s simply called make-believe, for adults it goes by another name – personas. I’ll discuss this in depth in a future article. Suffice to say for now, build personas. Play make-believe.
Change it Up
Don’t be afraid to make changes. You can always revert them back if you find they are not working. As you seek to understand your user you need to see what works and what doesn’t. What resonates with them and helps them to understand you and your business. A popular way of doing this involves employing A/B testing (again too much to cover in this post alone). Give your users different experiences. See what works for them and what doesn’t. Learn your users likes and dislikes. As you change it up it’s important that you monitor, report, and improve. Don’t simply make changes for the sake of change. Instead make changes because you believe it will enhance the user experience. You have to monitor the outcomes. You have to be willing to roll things back if they don’t work. But you shouldn’t be afraid to make changes.
Understanding your users should be one of your primary goals as a business owner. Figure out what they want. You’ll find if you take the time to learn your user better you’ll be able to attract the right user. Don’t waste your time selling yourself and your business to someone who is not your ideal customer. Save time, save money, and build the right user-base. All it takes is a little effort, and a few new ideas to start the process of understanding your user.