I have spoken to many business owners this year who are struggling. Reviewing some of their goals, it is pretty evident if they tweaked their businesses just slightly, they’d fill a niche that might be more profitable than what they are doing.
Understandably, business owners have their egos completely entwined in their business plan. Gently, gently suggesting a new idea—not even a new idea, but an offshoot—can really rock their self-confidence.
“Well, I want to work on my core,” they said. “THEN I’ll try some of these other ideas.” What she or he can’t hear is that the core isn’t working, at least not right now. Granted, it might be the economy or some other circumstance out of their control. But what can you sell while the economy is stabilizing? If you sell umbrellas when it’s raining, then sell parasols while it’s sunny. You have to have some flexibility and listen to your customers. If the only thing you know about your customers is what you derived from your own market study, take the hard gulp and admit you got the wrong information.
I recently heard that Kodak hired an executive to “listen.” That person’s job is to pay attention to what people are saying about Kodak out in the marketplace. What are customers telling you? Are they all asking you for the same thing that you don’t offer? Maybe they know something you don’t. It’s great to know what you are all about, but you need to meet the needs of your customer. If that means expanding what you offer, then do it.
Remember that adage, “the customer is always right”? What that means is: give the people what they want! Yes, maybe you’re a burger place, but having a veggie burger isn’t such a bad idea. If you offer party planning for children’s parties, why not for adults?
The truth is businesses morph a lot to find their way and turn a profit. Your core—or the thing you were most passionate about when you started—might catch on too. In the meantime, you need to make a living. Even if this is a start-up and you haven’t quit your day job, it won’t become your main source of income until you try to do anything you can to make it work.
Get out of the way of yourself and honor your customers by meeting their needs.