In 2015 we had a year where everything clicked, revenue jumped by 30% and we hit 2 million in sales for the first time. The following year – 2016 – revenue jumped again by 20%. We were pretty pumped. It was that ‘breakthrough’ that we had been striving for.
But, 2016 was also a year when our key focus was not on growing our business – it was to further systemize and automate the business so we could step out, do less and spend half of that year overseas working remotely and chasing the sun. That made the breakthrough a lot sweeter.
I’ve been reflecting this week.
Reflecting on those last couple of years and reflecting on over a decade running the business we recently sold (all those wins, all those things we screwed up, all those lessons and learnings, those terrible decisions and the brilliant ones), it got me thinking about some of those gold nuggets of advice we got when we were starting out that changed the way we looked at our business. Nuggets that we would love to pass on to anybody starting out on their journey, or who is well and truly into their journey but are struggling to pull it all together and get that breakthrough they are craving.
We also launched with no business background, no industry experience, no networks and a lack of IT skills that made our staff unsure whether to laugh or cry. If there’s a mistake to make then we’ve probably made it. Everything we learnt over ten years we learnt on the fly and often came from getting it wrong before getting it right.
Something we did really well early on is reach out for support and advice in lots of places and we were rewarded with so many great nuggets of advice over the journey that helped us achieve some impressive results in our business.
While I was reflecting this week, two things an old friend told me sprang instantly to mind that I think enabled us first of all to survive, then to thrive:
Find out what your customers actually want.
When you’ve got what you’re sure is a great idea, you need to find out if your target market or your customer thinks the same way. You’ve therefore got to engage with them. You’re going to need to do so much research that you think you’re going crazy. Get creative in where you’re asking the questions and finding your answers. You’ve got to go and hang out in the places your customer or target market hangs out – both online and in the real world and avoid asking leading questions and trying to extract the answers you want to hear. Just be curious and open to feedback. Hey, I’ve got this idea for a new day tour, what do you think about this? Is this something you would pay to experience? Have you done something like this before? Where? What did you love about it? What wasn’t so great about it? …there’s no magic formula for this. Just be curious. Don’t make your questions too formal, too structured…just be casual, be yourself. You want people to open up so remember to create the kind of environment that allows that. You’re the student here, not the teacher. You’re here to learn – not to sell something.
For me, I’m pretty impatient by nature and it took awhile for the penny to drop and for us to do this well. We’ve fallen down here plenty of times when creating new products. We’ve rushed a lot of decisions that haven’t been backed by exhaustive research and they’ve bombed as a result.
You’ve GOT to do everything you can to prove that concept. You’ve got to know that there’s a crowd out there hungry for what you’ve got to offer and that you’ve found a solution to a problem that actually exists. Not just one that you have a hunch exists. If you think people are going to rush off and steal your big idea then relax. It ain’t going to happen. These days I like to tell as many people as possible about my ideas. Why? Because I take every opportunity I can to refine my pitch and see if people have the problem I believe exists. See if they think your idea is a good one or if they rip it to shreds. See if they understand what you are trying to tell them. See if you can articulate what’s in your head. If you think you have a good idea then go and tell 50 people all about it and see what they say. It will help your idea evolve and fast track your success
Once you’ve done your research and you’re convinced that you’re onto something then…
Get it to market!!!
If you’ve got an idea and if you’ve proven the concept then don’t mess around, don’t sit on it, get it out there. It’s not going to be the perfect product or the perfect time to launch that product or service. It may never be. ‘I can’t launch yet because I want it to be perfect’.
Don’t be that person.
It very possibly might be close to perfect one day…but not until It’s been pulled apart and rebuilt multiple times by finding out from your customer how it can be better. Take your customer along for the ride. Get their feedback and listen. Listen to them tell you what’s wrong with it. More importantly, act, then take it back to them and show them how you have improved it.
Involve them in the process and they will trust you. It will create long lasting trust in your product and in your brand.