Practical Q&A With Doug Richard — Cambridge Starting & Growing a Successful Business Class

05 JUN 2010

At a recent Starting & Growing a Successful Business Event held in Cambridge, we received the following questions.  We’ve taken a moment to respond to them.  We thought others might find the answers interesting.

Are entrepreneurs born or made? — Bryan

Entrepreneurs are always made.

People don’t come out of the womb knowing how to pitch, to sell, to design. One may make the case that some folks seem to want to be entrepreneurs more than others.  But that may be because they learn, sooner than others, what entrepreneurs do.  In a larger sense . . . no one “is” any profession or skill. That’s a convenient fiction. No one is a writer or is a salesman.  People write and sell.  You can master entrepreneurship by caring enough to acquire and master the skills you need to build businesses.  Get to work :)

How can you detach yourself from a venture? How to you evaluate a business that you’ve been emotionally attached to? — Keith

Actually, we have a great article about that. You can find it here.  But the short answer is that lots of entrepreneurs start businesses because they have “missions” they are passionate about.

Perhaps they want to bring clean water to villages. Perhaps they want to open the world of computers to senior citizens.  Maybe they want to teach people to dance.

Sometimes their vision of how to achieve that objective is so narrow and so flawed, they have a hard time of making a business of it.  When this happens they start a business and it fails to thrive.

The Market is a great educator.

The visionary entrepreneur has to realize that businesses are ephemeral.  They come and go. Your commitment to your mission can go on as long as you like.

Within that context, any business you create to support your mission is ephemeral.  You can reformulate an existing business in a new way, or close an existing business in order to start a new one based on a different financial model.  For those with very philanthropic objectives, you may even consider creating a social enterprise, cooperative or charity . . . .

Or perhaps you will find that the best way to achieve your mission is not starting an enterprise, but joining an existing one that is doing what you’d like to do.

I think you’ll find, given this perspective, it’s easy to let go of a business. It’s like letting go of business cards you don’t use anymore, or dropping that fax number you no longer need.  If it’s the work you really care about . . . you probably don’t have to give that up just cause a given business proves unfeasible.

Is the reason for focusing on internet based businesses because that’s where the future is or because it’s the type of venture the Cambridge set are likely to be ‘into’ and as such is the best fit for the attendees. — Martin

Well, actually, neither of those reasons are why we focus on the Internet.

Basically, folks who have a business need customers.  Very broadly speaking, there are two ways to get them.

  • You can call people and knock on their doors and try to tell them about your product.
  • You can put your product where people who are looking for it are likely to find it.

The second option, sometimes called “in-bound marketing” is very cheap and cost effective, and the Internet is the cheapest “in-bound” marketing solution around.  If you do your job right, you can put your product where people who want to buy what you sell can find it.

So . . . we focus on how to put your products and services on the Internet.  In most cases it is the cheapest and fastest way for many of our entrepreneurs to get access to hundreds, thousands or millions of customers.  The Build Your Business Now toolkit that we built to support the course explains how ot create the simple site you need in just a few hours.

Market segment analysis. Instead of searching on Google, are there any specific places to retrieve this type of information? — Katherine

Well, we think you’ll be happier looking on Google (and perhaps other search engines) for information on market segments because getting the data there is fast and easy and you know it is timely.

For most businesses, the easiest to reach market of “ready to buy” customers are those who are looking for your service on Google because they are ready to buy.  If someone goes to Google and types in “Dog Grooming”, chances are its not an academic search.  They actually want a Dog Groomer.  If some customers search for “Sidcup Dog Groomers” others search for “Chislehurst Dog Groomer” and still others search for “Organic Dog Groomers South East”, that’s a person who is almost certainly ready to buy.

You can also look at sites that you think offer competing services and see how Google sees them from a keyword standpoint.  Go to http://www.google.com/sktool/ and http://www.google.com/trends to explore your market segments and related keywords.

Pricing: how much is it worth to them? … I recognize that the price of a product should be set to what a person will pay, not set to what they say they might be willing to pay. There could potentially be a large gap between how different entities value a product or service. Apart from asking prospects, apart from only looking at competitors’ pricing, what other tips would you suggest for setting price? (coming from the perspective of an internet based, B2B SaaS model with a product attempting to resegment an existing market with a niche strategy) – Steve

Pricing is always a matter of trial and error and you’ll almost always leave some money on the table. If you check out the Build Your Business Now Toolkit that was distributed after the class, you’ll see some practical advice and steps for figuring out price.

Basically you have to identify your target markets, see what they are paying for competing solutions, and price yourself in that zone.  If there are no real competing solutions, you have to look at what NOT having your solution costs them.  Using those two “ballparking” procedures will usually get you in your zone pricewise for each market segment . . . and then the issue is making sure each segment sees the right pricing.

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