“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

 

 

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

 

                                                             Question 1

 

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

 

                                                             Question 2

 

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

 

                                                             Question 3

 

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

 

                                                             Question 4

 

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

 

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.

 

 

So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

 

Your sales may come, but slowly

 

You will miss ROA targets

 

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

 

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

 

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

 

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

 

 

 

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

 

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

 

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

 

 

How about your company….

 

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

 

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

 

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Delivering Happiness; Enterprise Rental Cars Knows it’s About Doing a Number of Little Things, Consistently Well

 

 

Delivering happiness to your internal and external customers is not about just doing one big thing very well. Market leaders understand delivering happiness is about intimately understanding your customers and your market and consistently doing a number of little things exceptionally well.

Delivering happiness is the “golden rule” in action.

 

This week my work brought me to Chicago. As I discussed in a previous post about the buying experience as a differentiator , my preferred rental car company is Enterprise Rental Cars because of the amazing expertise I had at their Denver location.

I arrived at the Chicago airport, retrieved my checked bags and I was off to the rental car shuttle bus location. When I arrived I was happy to find the Enterprise bus waiting and I quickly boarded. The driver helped me with my bags and provided me a map to help me return the rental car when my trip was over. Another bus arrived and we were quickly off to the rental car parking lot. On the trip the driver (just like Denver) said “we will be arriving at your car in approximately 12 minutes”. As we drove the driver offered to provide us directions if we needed them. The driver radioed “we have two customers approaching and we are two minutes out”…great, I wonder if they will greet us when the van rolls up like Denver?

Sure enough, we were greeted by professionally dressed associates waiting for us. They introduced themselves and invited us inside. As I made my way to the counter, I was offered a cold water to drink. (How did she know I was so thirsty)? We quickly started on the paperwork and she asked how my flight was. Interesting, this is when Dollar or Hertz is typically trying to sell me a GPS rental or insurance, and she seemed to genuinely want to know about my day…

The reservation was pulled up quickly and she led me outside to pick out my car. I chose a small Kia and she walked around the car with her clipboard inspecting the car for damages with me. Again, how nice as this is my job with other companies and it never seems to fail I miss something. She asks about gasoline and insurance packages, but in a way as if she was concerned about my overall service experience and not like she was receiving a sales spiff like I have experienced with Thrifty and other rental car companies. Again she asked if I needed directions and she drew on my map the route to my hotel. She too offered me a map for returning the rental car and circled the directions I would use based on the location of my hotel in Shamburg. She quickly handed me my paperwork and said; “you will need to show this paperwork and your drivers license to the guard at the gate when you leave”. How did she know? How did she know one of my (many) travel pet peeves is if you need to see my drivers license again when I leave your lot, tell me. Don’t wait until I am in the driver’s seat, seat belt fastened and now having to retrieve my wallet and license again. Awesome, it’s like they shadowed me for the past 26 years of traveling and know each of my needs.

Another smaller irritant if you will is finding a radio station I like. Not a big deal mind you, but I often find myself trying to find a station , as I am driving at night in a strange place, trying to follow my Google Maps directions while keeping my eyes out for the right exit signs. When I sit behind the wheel of my Enterprise Rental car I look up and there, hanging from the rear view mirror is a list of radio stations…again how awesome.

After my work was completed I followed the circled directions and quickly found the rental car lot for my car return. When I arrived I was directed to rental car returns and found three people, professionally dressed again, waiting to help me. I would say from the time I pulled in, to the time I was back on the bus to the terminal was no more than 3-5 minutes. Again…awesome! They must know that travelers on their way home just want to get home. We seem to lack patience even more so on the return home than when we arrive and waiting in lines to drop off a rental car is not something we want to do.

Enterprise Rental Cars is in the delivering happiness business and they again reinforced my loyalty based on an amazing overall buying experience.

 

To deliver happiness you must intimately understand your buyers and not rely on your gut and intuition.

 

The test if you are truly committed to delivering happiness is the repeatability of the overall service experience.

 

Market leaders identify customer needs and build repeatable processes and procedures that insure a quality experience each interaction.

 

Market leaders committed to delivering happiness also instill a passion in their team members that is seen in authentic individualized service that reinforces the overall passion to serve.

 

So how about your team?…

 

Do you choose to deliver happiness to your internal and external customers?

 

Is your customer experience the same in Denver as it is in Chicago, Cleveland, or Miami?

 

Do you have processes and procedures in place to insure you consistently deliver happiness? (Market leaders do)

 

How can you instill a passion to deliver happiness in your organization?

 

Just as Enterprise Rental Cars has taken what historically was a matter of fact exchange of service in renting a car to an opportunity to deliver happiness, you can too. You too can get to know your buyers, your market and identify all those little opportunities to serve them that often cost very little but have a huge impact. To do so you need a culture passionately committed to the overall customer experience and an intimate knowledge of your buyers, their needs, and frequent problems.

Oh…as a side benefit, when you passionately deliver happiness customers are forgiving when things go wrong. When I arrived at my hotel I noticed my automatic door locks and truck release did not work. Given how many times I was in and out of the car and trunk over the weekend this would have normally been something that irritated me and tainted my overall buying experience. Since so many other parts of the buying experience were amazing I found the door and trunk release not working not a major problem. I was more forgiving of those inevitable occurrences that go bump in the night than I would have been having rented a car else ware.

Are you in the delivering happiness business?

 

If not now is as good a time as any to start!

Delivering Happiness; Proof …the “Golden Rule” is Profitable !

  

 Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Does your business (do you) solve your customers’ unresolved problems? Does your team’s culture promote serving your internal and external customers to ultimately deliver happiness in their lives? Or, are you like the 90% of businesses out their hunkered down, focused on your numbers…driving costs out of your business…achieving your objectives…striving to hit your bottom line?

Businesses who passionately deliver happiness through solving their customers’ unresolved problems grow rapidly and are significantly more profitable than those with an inward focus.

 

Market leaders passionately serve their market’s needs and experience greater shareholder value than those inwardly focused.

 

If you read my blog, you know I enjoy reading. Some time ago one of my mentors said “leaders are readers” and this gave me a ravenous appetite to read and learn. I just finished: Delivering Happiness ;A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony  Hsieh the founder of Zappos. The book is a quick read as it is written in a conversational tone that makes its overall message and stories connect. What I enjoyed most is you cannot argue with Zappos success having just recently been acquired by Amazon for $ 1 billion.

We know the “Golden Rule” is something we should all live by….” Do onto others as you would have others do onto you”, however many business leaders are afraid of weaving this into the very culture of their businesses due to fear. The first fear usually comes from the CFO types out there…are you crazy, do you know how much that will cost us? (they are quickly won over when sales and profits grow exponentially)

Then there’s the hard-driving, what DISC would say is a “Driven” personality types, who says…serve my market? I want to drive results through my market.” (they can be convinced)

Lastly we also have the old school (market loser) mentality that says; I win you loose and the delivery of goods and services is about their personal needs and is not in any way connected to their customer’s needs or problems. They look at each day as a competition to sell their product or service, to overcome the buyer’s objections, and create a need for their product in their market. (they rarely change their beliefs and are often removed due to poor overall team performance)

The first two examples, the concerned CFO and the Driven leader can be convinced, however the business leader who is out for his own personal goals …well he or she will take a great deal of convincing and may never see the light based on my experience. The sad reality is this last type often looses what they are working so hard to create since they are focused on the wrong self-serving outcome.

I enjoyed this book as it truly captures the thoughts and emotions involved in the minds of entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of the business. Tony shares those bleeding edge of decision moments that brought me back to a number of personal experiences I have experienced. If you have launched a business or even a new product to some degree, you may have experienced;

Will we have enough cash?

 

Will that promised big order come in?

 

I now know what we need to do but can we truly afford to do it?

 

Will that big receivable we have been waiting on arrive in time for us to make payroll?

 

Should I continue to personally invest in this business or cut bait?

Can we find the funding we need in time?

 

I particularly enjoyed Tony’s account of the roadblocks and the corresponding emotions we all face in launching anything new. In the past 26 years of launching new products, new businesses, I cannot recall one that we did not encounter unforeseen roadblocks. What we must quickly do is identify the issue with unfiltered data, focus on the solution, the objective we plan to achieve, and take action.

Businesses that face roadblocks like the proverbial deer in the headlights get run over.

 

What stands out most is how Zappos is a current example of a business that intentionally has woven the golden rule through their culture and their brand. Far too many organizations launch with an unintentional disconnect between what they say in their mission and value statements and what they actually do. This disconnect is felt internally as well as in their market and in both cases violates trust.

Establishing trust is the most critical foundation in building win-win relationships with your internal and external customers.

 

Zappos intentionally set out to create their culture and clearly defined their culture in terms of 10 core values;

  1. Deliver WOW through service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little weirdness
  4. Be adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do more with less
  9. Be passionate and Determined
  10. Be humble

 

Tony goes on to say; “many companies have core values, but they don’t really commit to them. They usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release….We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to.”

 

So how about your company….

 

Do you have core values? Can everyone on your team rattle them off…or just HR?

 

Are your core values intentionally woven into how you serve your market…or are there exceptions to the rule?

 

Have you intentionally set out to build trust with your internal and external customers?

 

Does your team authentically live the core values of your organization in all they do…or are their very actions breaking trust with your internal and external customers?

 

Do your team members have the freedom (and sense of safety) to boldly challenge practices not in align with your core values?….even if one of your senior leaders is violating them?

 

As I mentioned in a blog that discussed Delivering Happiness, this is not just a book…

 

Delivering Happiness is more than a business model …it’s a Movement

 

So I ask you again;

Is your business, (you), your team, delivering happiness to your internal and external customers?

What is the cost to your bottom line if one of your competitors intentionally sets out to serve their market when you continue your inward focus on your goals and your bottom line?