Entrepreneurial Vision + Organizational Execution -> Success

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As you review the stories of successful entrepreneurs, is that they took a deeper look at what potential customers REALLY wanted and figured out how a company could provide it. Then they built an organization that could execute on the promise in a way that outperformed the standards set by competitors. Are you doing so?

Donna Fenn shares stories of such leaders, in a fast and fun book called AlphaDogs: How Your Small business Can Become a Leader of the Pack. Let me share a few interesting nuggets.

  • Seduce your customers. If you’re going to compete on service – you need to out-service your competitors. Challenge the assumptions of the industry; do the math: what’s the real cost/benefit of customer-service? Profitable companies like Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Zane’s Cycles, Direct Tire & Auto Service, etc. changed the retail experience to encourage customers to come to the stores and “hang-out†by taking advantage of free tables, couches, drinks, foods, inexpensive components (like nuts and bolts), etc. because buying “mind-share†cuts acquisition costs and boosts referral rates very effectively.
  • Take the time to know your market’s full needs. Tom Kelly, of IDEO believes that the world is full of opportunity. All you have to do is “watch where people have trouble; and where there’s trouble in the status quo, that’s where the opportunity is.†Intuit significantly boosted its sales of Quicken software by following customers home and watching how they actually installed the program. It revealed sticking points that probably would not be articulated in a survey. Thor-Lo built a premium sock company around its analysis of where shoes wear out and therefore socks need extra padding, as well as experimenting with softer and moisture resistant fabrics. (And ensure longer-term success by getting patents!) Zoots created a 24/7 chain of automated dry cleaners to meet the needs of urban residents for whom normal “working hours†created access problems.
  • Hire employees committed to your strategy. Go beyond the question of skills and experience within the industry to behaviors that matter to you and your customers. Find out what have they done for customers in the past that demonstrates commitment and if possible create scenarios where you observe how they actually treat others, especially customers (e.g., let them actually serve the customers for a trial day!)
  • Build a “social†community to encourage greater communication between customers and your organization. This includes engagement using social media, and events which also provide the opportunity to educate customers as to what differentiates you from competitors. Constantly observe and survey them to discover the submarkets that you can develop.

Do these ideas make sense to you? Share your experiences and insights with us, so we can all become leaders of our respective packs!