John Gardiner is a thought leader and veteran entrepreneur who has turned his 38 years of business experience into a new book, 3 Secrets of Business Success. He joined editor Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to share some of the secrets he’s learned from the ups and downs of his business journey.
In his nearly four decades in business, John Gardiner has experienced the highs and lows of both success and failure, and what he’s learned in those years is enough to fill a book.
“I’ve been having fun with business for 38 years now,” says John.
“I started writing articles on LinkedIn about stuff that I’d learned and the basic fundamentals of business. After I’d written about 24 articles and ended up with about 10,000 followers, I realised I was striking a nerve – that if I put the articles all together it might make a resource for people looking to start their own business, or existing business owners who are struggling to scale. So I put the book together.”
John Gardiner, author, entrepreneur and business development expert
Know the fundamentals
While the book is entitled 3 Secrets to Business Success, John admits that it’s really a deep-dive into the fundamentals of a successful business.
“To explain it, let’s say that you knew nothing about tennis and you walked onto a tennis court and you thought, ‘I wonder what all those lines are for, and what that bit of fishing net across the court is? I’ve got a racket and ball here, but what do I do with it? How do I score; how do I win?’
“That kind of approach is where most people go wrong in small business – they start without learning the fundamentals, which is one of the reasons why we have such an extraordinary failure rate of small business.
“The day you start, you’re not going to beat Roger Federer,” says John. “You’ve got to learn the fundamentals; what all the lines are for and how to forehand, backhand, lob and serve before you can actually play.”
Solving a problem
No matter how great your product or service is, John says if you’re not solving a problem for people, you simply won’t succeed.
“If what you’ve developed doesn’t solve a problem, you haven’t got a business,” he says. “Most new businesses start with a solution; they develop a widget, piece of software or product and then they go looking for a problem to solve. They start with this terrific idea, and they end up in trouble because they’re not solving a problem.
“For example, if you go to Bunnings to buy a drill bit, do you really want a drill bit? No – you want a hole. And that’s where most people go wrong – if you go looking for the hole instead of the drill bit, you’ll discover what people want and then you can develop something to address that problem.
“But if you start with the solution first, you’ve got the problem.”
Listen to John Gardiner on the Flying Solo podcast:
Be in it for the right reasons
While a money-making mindset may seem like a good trait to have in business, John warns that it’s not a winning strategy.
“If you put a hundred business people into a room and ask them what is the true purpose of a business, 80 per cent of them will say, ‘To make money’. And you know what? They’re wrong,” John says.
“That’s why so many are unsuccessful and why they can’t scale. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you go after the money, people can smell you a mile away and they will not do business with you. The only way that people are going to do business with you is if they know, like, and trust you. That’s an old adage, but it’s so true.
“The only way that people are going to get to know, like and trust you is if you know what their problem is and you can solve that problem. That’s the true purpose of a business – to help people solve their problems. But a lot of people go into it for the money and that’s one of the reasons they fail.
“This is one of the fundamentals. You’ve got to figure out what the true purpose of a business is and then work from there, not come up with a widget and hope for the best.”
Needs vs wants
When it comes to marketing and building your business, John says that understanding the concept of needs versus wants is essential.
“To put it very simply, we all need to go to the dentist every six months, or pay tax. Do we want to? No. So it’s quite normal to need something and not want it, but that means you’ve got to be convinced that you want it.
“This is one of the secrets of business,” John reveals. “Try not to be in the needs business, but in the wants business. If you have something that people want, all you have to do is tell them that you’re there; you don’t have to convince them to buy.
“As a personal example, in the early 2000s, CD ROMS for business were a huge market so I developed a CD of business how-tos. I thought everybody in business needed these, but you know what – nobody wanted it. It cost me a lot of money and I advertised the hell out of it and produced a stack of them because I was convinced that people would want what I had; but they only needed it, they didn’t want it.
“Nobody bought it – nobody. It was soul destroying, but it was the best lesson I’ve ever learned,” admits John.
Leave the ego at home
John Wayne famously said, ‘Life is hard, but it’s even harder if you’re stupid’.
“That’s the subheading of one of the chapters in the book,” John reveals. “It’s about business ego, and one of the secrets of business is to leave your ego at home.
“I’ve seen this happen so many times, especially with retailers. Somebody comes in with a broken product and the retailer will start arguing with the customer because they want to win. They don’t want to give a replacement or repair or give their money back, so they argue black and blue until the customer goes away unhappy. Now that customer is going to tell a dozen people about their negative experience with that retailer. If the retailer was smart and forgot their ego, they would replace, repair or refund the product, and that person will probably do business with them again.
“There’s no point in arguing; you’ve got to leave your ego at home.”
Get your copy of 3 Secrets of Business Success here.
“I want to send the message that you can be successful if you learn the fundamentals,” says John. “Just like if you learn the fundamentals in tennis and practise enough, you might get pretty good at it.
“To use the tennis analogy, my book is about how to hit the ball, not where to hit the ball. You’ve got to learn how to hit the ball before you learn where to hit it.”
John shared many more tips about the fundamentals of business and learning from failures in this informative episode of Flying Solo. Listen to the full podcast now.