Jim Fletcher left a comment for me yesterday that really hit home. He totally captured my mood of thirty years ago! I am practically on record as having expressed all of these viewpoints:
I know the cliche "do what you love and the money will follow", but what I love is taking pictures, traveling, and reading. That happens to be what the majority of the human race would like to do, so it's rather difficult to make a living doing that. I've often told myself there are only two things I lack in order to start my own business: capital and know-how. I'm just frustrated at myself for having to be in the corporate world when the real world is out there to explore, and don't know how to extricate myself from it.
What stuck my attention was that I couldn't quickly rattle off how I came to change my ways. I will say that it was me that changed and not the universe, but I'll save the story of how that came about for another time. Basically, I found out that most of what I knew was based on wishful thinking and incorrect data. Schools, universities and your family have more of that than you might believe.
Let me share the most basic facts I know to be true about business:
- All legitimate business is based upon the principle of exchange
- Exchange is providing something valuable and getting appropriate value in return
- Value can be established through communication with the prospective customer
- You find out what the person wants and is willing to pay for it
- If you provide exchange in abundance, that is the most certain way to grow a business as you will have customers telling others about you.
All of the other activities of a business are only there to support the creation of an exchange of goods or services with a continuing series of customers.
Exchange is the key. It is the fundamental activity of any business, especially a micro-business where you are self-employed. Many people have it backward. It's not about your product or service. What is important is: What do people need and want and how can I provide it?
If you concentrate on finding out what people want that you can provide, you will inevitably come to a point where your resources and the prospective customer's needs line up and the way to proceed will become clear. It may take a lot of research to work out how to produce a uniformly acceptable product or service, but it will all be worth it if you can deliver what is needed and wanted. The next thing to do is to become more efficient so you can start making a profit.
The important thing is that you have created an exchange. If you have chosen well, you should have more exchanges coming up. If there are no more prospects, repeat the process of finding out what people need and want until you find a need that will keep you busy for a longer period of time.
If you follow this advice, your micro-business will expand before you know it. If business start dropping off, go back and read this post again and see what has dropped out.