A Sobering Moment (or, “Customer Needs”)

As an entrepreneur and innovator, it’s very easy to get caught up in formulating great ideas and developing a powerful vision. So easy, in fact, that we, as business people, often forget the fundamentals of what we are supposed to be about. I currently find myself in a place where I have brought together several great ideas that I would like to pursue. But the reality is that there is a gap between what I would like to be doing and what I can actually offer to the market. In an attempt to bridge that gap, I have developed a strategy for building a portfolio to demonstrate my experience. However, I received a sobering email from a close friend today reminding me of the limitations I face. I am reminded that my portfolio-building strategy is based on expecting something from my market. I expect that a core group of my target market will accept that I can bring certain things to the table without my being able to demonstrate that ability. I am prepared to present certain things to the market without confirming that my market will actually have a use for what I am able to present.

What it comes down to is that I haven’t taken the time to get to know my customers. I have a vague idea of what needs they might have, but I haven’t really gotten to know everything I can about them. I began with a wrong presumption: I began with an idea and tried to fit customers to that. Rather, I need to begin with a set of customers and determine what exactly their needs are. From there, I can build a business that will meet those needs.

On that note, my customer avatar is a young entrepreneur, perhaps high school/university level, who has a great idea but isn’t sure how to get started with it. Perhaps he has an idea for a product but doesn’t know how to go about producing it. Maybe she has an idea that she has started taking action on, but doesn’t know how to structure a “business” around the key idea. He or she is creative and passionate about this idea. What are the needs of this young person? Can he or she find enough support in online forums, through free, easily accessible information, or from non-profit agencies? Or is there so much information available that this young person doesn’t know where to begin?  If you have been in that place (as a young entrepreneur) or know someone who is or has been, and have feedback on what those needs are, your advice or suggestions are welcome!

Value Creating

I’ll start today by saying that I know I owe you all a book review, for John Maxwell’s How Successful People Think. My goal is to finish the book (yes, I’ve procrastinated finishing it) and hopefully get that to you by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a few updates on my position. Today was my first day at a new job, selling Direct TV through their affiliate Direct Media. Iffy on the exciting scale, but we’ll see how things turn out in a week or so. On a much more exciting front, I found out today that I am going to Lithuania in August for an entrepreneurship camp. I was one of fifty out of several hundred applicants selected for this camp, which is free (except, of course, the travel expenses to get there). You would expect to pay a good $5000 – $10,000 for a similar conference. I will be keeping notes, and will be passing some of that information on to you. Which leads into my next point.

Until recently, I have questioned my ability to provide quality information regularly that actually adds value to my readers. However, a friend suggested that, as I am growing in my studies and experiences, the longer I go, the more information I will gain to pass on. Therefore, I am going to make a commitment to passing on to you, my oh – so meaningful readers, everything (well, almost everything) I learn. I must make note here that my primary target market will be small business owners, managers or any one interested in business. However, I believe lessons learned in business can be applied in life, therefore, I hope some of you non-business people might gain something from this as well.

I am also thinking of adding a “business tip of the week” type deal here, maybe every couple of posts or so, if I remember. So the one for this week is: “creating greater value for others brings greater value to oneself.” This one comes from Craig Ballantyne, with Internet Independence. Of course, it’s not really just from him. Truly understanding the importance of being customer-oriented (not just in words, but in actions and lifestyle) is vital to business. And truly understanding the importance of serving others as you would want to be served is vital in life.

Introduction – Business as Usual

Today I would like to invite you to join me on a journey: a journey to better understand who we are, why things are the way they are, and to learn from each other. Here I will occasionally take a look at my experiences, sometimes track what I’m currently up to, and often share my latest ideas. Please feel free to join in the discussion (talking to myself can get boring after a while!) with insights, experiences, advice, etc. If you would like to get to know my background a little, drop in at http://www.jdl-livelife.blogspot.com/. This is a continuation of that blog, with a (hopefully!) more reader-friendly format. Consider this Perspective: Take 2.

Before leaving today, I’d like to leave you with a few references. For starters, take a look at http://www.liveintense.com/. This site is headquarters to a new business, Live Intense, LLC, launched by a couple of everyday (yet, I think, incredible) guys who are encouraging a more intentional lifestyle. Check them out to get a bit of their story and what they’re all about. Next, http://www.sovereignman.com/ is the home ground of Simon Black, international invester and business man. His advice/reports/critiques on the global situation is current and a must-read. http://internetindependence.com/ is the next one, with Craig Ballantyne, online business expert. His free tips are cutting edge in the internet marketing field. Finally, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/about.html by John Rob, a proponent of resilient community.