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Starting / Business startup

What you think about your business doesn’t really matter

You can do all the research and market-testing you like, if no one wants to give you money for your product or service, as the business owner you’ll find yourself in a spot of bother.

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Headstrong, determined and strong-minded are all words that could describe the average business owner. In fact, I would call some of you control freaks. It’s the nature of the beast that self-determining, independent people who are motivated enough to start a business will like things a particular way: their way. Steve Jobs is probably the most legendary business control freak and, from the outside, it might appear that this character trait is vitally important for business success. After all, if the owner of a successful business makes all the right decisions, what they think is right must be right. Right?

Not exactly. In fact, what really matters is what the market thinks, not the business owner.

Years ago, as an over-excited young businessman, I got swept up in a new business venture aimed at start-ups. We spent two years analysing the market, developing processes, creating the brand and building networks. Everything was perfectly designed and our success was a foregone conclusion (in our minds), since we had done everything right.

Only problem was, the market thought otherwise. The business faltered and a year later I walked away. That was my brutal lesson: it doesn’t actually matter what I think, it only matters what the market thinks.

Your big ideas don’t count for much in business if there aren’t enough clients going round to make it a viable business.

"Your big ideas don't count for much in business if there aren’t enough clients going round to make it a viable business."

I’ve seen countless examples of business owners hell bent on doing things their way, without research or against the market, only to completely bomb. There was the spa manufacturer who (against better advice) spent his last dollars on a radio advertising campaign that generated no sales – ultimately they went bust. Another was a retailer who spent a fortune on a new store with no foot traffic but ‘lots of potential,’ that closed a few years later. Or the manufacturer with a new innovative packaging platform that the market was not ready for and could not understand (who is now out of business). They all lost track of what their markets wanted and went off in their own direction.

Have you ever pushed hard to promote your product or service, but it never took off, no matter how hard you tried? It could be that your offering is not what the market wants. Many business owners assume that their offering is compelling and the market wants it, but that is often not the case.

As business owner, your job is to deliver a consistently compelling offer. What you think needs to be (at the very least) an interpretation of what the market thinks. You need to be meeting their needs every day, pre-empting their future needs and creating demand. Having your finger on the pulse of your market is an essential skill and even your small day-to-day decisions must be market-oriented.

The control freaks who are most successful? They’re the ones who know their markets are actually in control and create products and services that wow their clients. The most exceptional control freaks? They’re so tuned into their markets they know what we want – even before we do.

Warren Harmer

is author of Business Planning for Small Business. As a business adviser and coach, Warren offers instructive ‘how to’ information to make business ownership easier, less stressful and more enjoyable.

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