There are business owners who dream of being inventors. Being first in a category is more important to them than being successful and avoiding risk. Their ego pushes them to aspire to be first and surprise their clients with products they had never seen before. It’s often about the founder’s glow and fame. These entrepreneurs focus on getting recognition instead of solving their customers’ problems.
Their business research consists of rejecting ideas that have already been done. They are convinced that there’s no room for related products and obsess about not copying and not getting copied. Once these aspiring inventors stumble upon the idea that seems novel to them, they guard it as their deepest secret. They usually fall in love with their business concept not letting anyone know about it. To them, the fact that they love it is enough to guarantee success. Their vision becomes too myopic to think any other way.
There are three scenarios which may happen as a consequence:
Scenario 1: These aspiring inventors lose their initial momentum and business excitement. Creating in solitude and not getting feedback, they get tired of their concept and stop believing in it. Their secret business idea doesn’t get executed.
Scenario 2: After aspiring inventors finish creating their secret business, they launch the product or service and discover that there are fewer fans of their products than they thought there would be. At first, they try to persuade and convince their idea’s greatness, but after seeing no resonance they give up and let their inventions be unsold, unused and become obsolete.
Scenario 3: After the big reveal, the service or product is very well received. This is the best scenario any entrepreneur can hope for – having created something that people want and are willing to pay for! They took the risky path of creating in solitude, opting in for the big reveal, and succeeded in accurately guessing what people wanted.
We have all heard the well-known statistics regarding the percentage of small businesses failing in their first year. This number is only increasing and scaring a lot of potential entrepreneurs. However, it’s less scary if we approach the business creation process safely. In my book, “Your Creative Career: Turn Your Passion into a Fulfilling and Financially Rewarding Lifestyle“, I summarized a safe business strategy as follows:
Find out what people like and make it, not the other way around.
Our customers are the ones who buy what we make and who contribute to our success. We need their approval more than we need our own business satisfaction. Our satisfaction will not pay the bills.
As founders and creators, we often crave the spotlight without realizing that it’s our customers who we need to redirect the spotlight to. They are the core of our business and the reason why we can prosper. It’s dangerous to ignore them and create driven only by our passion. Passion won’t feed us.
The main advantage of testing our products is increasing the odds their success. Chris Guillebeau went on a multi city tour for his book Born for This. During the tour and multiple talks he gave, he realized that the audience was interested in the topic of starting side businesses. When the majority of the questions his readers would ask him were about being an entrepreneur on the side, he took it as a sign and started looking into it further. Chris started writing a book Side Hustle and committed to recording a daily podcast called The Side Hustle School. All he did was listen to his audience in multiple cities expressing interest in starting a business on the side. He started a business being reassured that there’s interest, that there will be buyers.
Another proponent of testing is business strategist and coach Patty Lennon who successfully built her speaking career using the method, which she called “fifty in fifty”. She secured fifty speaking engagements in fifty weeks focusing on small audiences interested in her message. This allowed her to see their reactions to her content and she was able to speak with every person individually. This is what helped her refine her core message and successfully build her public speaking career
As the internet and technology advance, our customers’ needs become more personal and refined. Clients become more demanding simply because they can. They now want to get involved in the creation process and let creators know about their needs and problems they need solved. This collaboration is mutually beneficial but only if founders are able to forego feeding their ego and recognize it’s not about them but about those who they serve. Those who recognize that customers value usefulness, personalization and simplicity more than novelty are the ones who succeed.
Let’s rethink our dream of being first in the category and consider what really drives us. Is it our ego that pushes us to be first and get the spotlight at the cost of risking of failure caused by the lack of feedback from our customers? Let’s consider digging deeper and discovering our true “why” behind doing what we do.
If it’s being helpful and serving our customers and if we truly want to live by the words in our company mission statement, let’s consider including our customers in the creation process. Ask for their feedback, tweak and adjust. We’ll then notice another unexpected advantage – being a part of the creation process, our customers will feel the sense of ownership proudly spreading the word about our products. This is the best marketing strategy any business owner can ask for.
Anna Sabino is the designer behind the jewelry brand Lucid New York, which she started after leaving her Wall Street career. Her jewelry collections are sold in more than 100 stores all over the world and have been featured in People StyleWatch, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. She is author of “Your Creative Career: Turn Your Passion into a Fulfilling and Financially Rewarding Lifestyle“.