Dominik Loncar, Futurpreneur Canada Entrepreneur-in-Residence
I ask participants in my workshops, what is the purpose of a business? I get answers such as; “to make money,” “to fill a need,” “help the economy,” “personal fulfillment,” etc. On the whiteboard I write my definition of a business, “to find and keep the right customers at a sustainable profit,” I ask participants to notice that there is nothing in that definition that talks about creative fulfillment, helping society, etc. In short, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business, and this applies to all businesses, including non-profits and social-purpose businesses.
Many creative types want to start a business to do the work they love. There is nothing wrong with that motive, the problem starts when that is all they want to do. Simply put, the customer doesn’t care that you want to be creatively fulfilled. Saying that, it is important to know what drives you. Without a sustainable motive, your business will not have enough staying power.
An entrepreneur came to me who wanted to start a business. She wanted to open a store that sells specialty gift items she makes. I asked if she would carry other items besides her own and her response was no. She felt that the point of the business was to showcase only her own line. The missing link with this plan was that she did not think through that if she was working full-time at her store, she wouldn’t have time to also create her own line. I told her to ask herself, if she were a customer would she also want to see other lines? She agreed that customers may be interested in seeing other lines, but that she was only interested in carrying her own.
If your intentions are to get all of your creative needs met in your start up at the expense of having a sustainable business model, you may end up with just a hobby. Can there be a shift in mindset by asking how you can serve the customer?
I asked this young entrepreneur to explore other options, like selling her line wholesale to various retailers. At the very least, she needed to know what she could realistically expect to do when she starts her business. She then needed to take a deep look and see if that type of business will satisfy her motive of being creative. In the end, it’s a question only she can answer.
Being honest with yourself, by understanding what motivates you, will help you develop solid staying power.
Remember, with a powerful “why” any “how” is possible.