What does a business owner want?

What does a business owner want?

Young plant growing in the morning light and green bokeh background , new life growth ecology concept

One of the most exciting things about the work I do is meeting business owners, almost all of whom are trying to change the world for the better in their own way. It never gets boring trying to figure out what I can best do to help them grow.

A big challenge for me, as I am sure it must be for many advisors, was to get myself out of the way. That is to say, to listen to what the customer is actually saying and not to think that I already know the answers and what they need!

In 2016 I committed to more active listening and to reflecting upon what I heard. What came through loud and clear is that, to a business owner, strategy is just a tool and doing a value proposition analysis is not a cause for excitement (I know, strange people!) I finally grocked why business owners don’t buy strategy, what I heard looks much more like:

1. Securing more regular customers.
We already do something that works for customers and for which we get well – or, at least, fairly – paid. Now we would like more leads and for more of those leads to turn into paying customers.

2. Making more profit from sales.
We already attract and satisfy customers. Now we would like to understand how to do so more profitably, extracting a fairer share of the value that we generate for them.

3. Making better margins.
We already have a good product/service and sell it profitably. Now we’d like our operations to increase business value, rather than impede it.

4. Feeling good about the business.
We already do good work but don’t necessarily feel properly valued by customers. Or maybe the passion for the business has faltered. Now we’d like that to change.

To a business owner these are connected by a desire to run a more effective business and to feel satisfied by what they do. Each alone might seem to come from, and lead to, different processes but they all rooted in the core strategy of the business.

It is the strategy that connects activities like defining and permeating purpose, developing a stronger value proposition, exploring value-based pricing, generating new products/services to enter/create better markets, hypothesis driven delivery tightly coupled with feedback, and so on. By leveraging a well designed strategy we can get the outcomes that we want, be it more customers, more profit, better margins, or just having more fun!

In future posts I shall try to explore deeper and share some of what I have learned. For business owners out there, please let me know if there’s anything that rings particularly true for you – or if there’s anything you’d like to add.