Aristotle once wrote that to avoid criticism you must “say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” In other words, the only way not to get on the wrong side of those human beings crowded around you is to sit in a strong box and hope no one notices you.
In purely business terms we can change Aristotle’s musing to define how to avoid being an entrepreneur: change nothing, challenge nothing, dare not to be different. After all you really don’t want to piss off your customers, do you? You want to keep those regular sales coming in, don’t you? You don’t want to find a new solution to their problems… hell, it just might not work?
And if you’re starting up a business, you want to do what everyone else is doing, don’t you?
Dare to be different
Well, that depends whether you want a GREAT business or one that just plods along, meeting half-hearted targets, keeping its head above water… existing. Sure, you can turn round to your friends and say: Look, I’m still going, still making a bit of money here and there, still keeping the wolf from the door.
The true entrepreneur has a different mind-set. If you want to succeed in the competitive, dog eat dog world of today, you have to learn how to embrace innovation. The world of bright ideas. The world of problem solving. Your brilliant solution may well piss off half the world, but the other half are going to really love it.
Why you can’t please all of the people
Select any global brand – Nike, MacDonald’s, Apple or Microsoft. If you pick someone from a crowd of mall shoppers during the next Black Friday Sale and ask for their opinion, you’re just as likely to find someone who likes one of these brands as hates them.
Each company stands for a set of clearly defined values that may or may not meet the expectations or agree with the person you are asking. Just as importantly, each business continues to innovate, to change and bring something new and exciting things to the table. Some people don’t much like change whatever it is. Others aren’t going to like the particular changes that are being made. Still more are probably going to love what’s been done.
The success of any brand depends on it being true to its values. You cannot be all things to all people and if you have a defined set of values then, along the line, you are going to make part of the population cranky without even trying. If you run a fast food restaurant you aren’t going to attract love letters and fan blogs from vegetarians who cannot eat anything that hasn’t been grown organically, preferably in their own garden using compost developed from the decayed remains of their own lost hopes.
What we’re saying is: Don’t ever think that you are going to appeal to everyone from your next door neighbour to the King of Siam, because you’re not. Make your brand bold and different, stay loyal to your values and walk quickly past those who would shout that what you are doing everything wrong.
Why pissed off people are actually good
When there’s a problem, some people see a problem. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, see a possibility. Do you think the taxi app Uber would have come about if people were actually happy with the way they got a taxicab? It was created because someone listened to the pissed off people and decided to find a solution for their problem. Of course they were helped that Wi-Fi and smart phones had come along (otherwise they might have been using flares and smoke signals), but they knew the kind of thing they wanted to see and were prepared to develop it from the idea stage, right through to innovation and development.
If someone is pissed off, then there is a problem. If there are enough POPs, then you have an entrepreneurial opportunity.
Look Ma, I cured squeaky doors!
Not all Uber ideas lead to a marketable product or service. Ask any entrepreneur worth their salt and you’ll find a long list of ideas that hit the fan at the speed of light and were never seen again. If any entrepreneur tells you their current business was a first idea you should sit back and wait for their nose to grow.
Entrepreneurs go through several stages before they get to the ‘big one’.
· They have to find pissed off people with a problem that needs to be solved.
· They need to talk to as many POPs as possible to come up with a clear idea of the central problem.
· They need a lightbulb moment when they come up with a solution.
· They have to test said solution and make sure it works (in truth, this is where many a business idea hits the floor like a sack of potatoes in a chipping factory).
· They adjust and rethink but finally bring the true nature of the problem in line with the right solution – the product that their pissed off people are going to just love.
The problem any solution is that it may well then piss off the people who liked the status quo, those who didn’t want things to change, who thought they could count on things staying the same until they went belly up and left this world.
First of all, these people are forever and always. If you invented a way to teleport to China in a millisecond you’d still find plenty of naysayers lauding the benefits of plane travel and weather delays. And if you invented a way for people to socialise and interact with each other online you’d still find other people who wonder what happened to the art of conversation. Secondly, you actually don’t need them at all because there are going to be plenty enough people who really, really love your idea.
Entrepreneurs as truth seekers
That may make entrepreneurs sound like latter day prophets, but actually it’s not that far from reality. They look at the truth of a problem, however big or small, and devise a solution that sets it right. The good ones do this by often stepping outside their comfort zone, pushing into areas which are not comfortable. As Captain Kirk put it: Boldly going where no man has been before.
There will be brick walls to run into, there will people who laugh and scorn as you happily drop into the commercial abyss with a product they can’t see the point of and there will be times when you wonder if you shouldn’t give up the entrepreneurial life for something more sedate.
But then there will be times when you solve that damn problem, see the light of hope in your customers eyes, and may even be those few times of pure gold when your solution catches on and changes the world you live in.
Stay true to your values, dear entrepreneur. Who else is there to help assuage the anger of your average consumer?
Most startups struggle and fail. Valery Satterwhite specializes in the success of fast growing startup businesses. She helps startup entrepreneurs get, keep and grow customers and excite investors. Startup entrepreneurs and founders. avoid the big and costly mistakes that derail a lot of startups, even those with great ideas. For more information please visit http://www.NailMyStartup.com.