The things you have to do when setting up a new business look like an Imelda Marcos shoe shopping list. Not kidding.
Imagine you are in a giant Tesco’s with a shopping list that looks like it was written on a roll of toilet paper. You’re looking down the list and mentally trying to see which ones you can tick off easily – buy printer cartridges, organise company mobile phone, set up company email. Cool. I can do those no problem.
Now you’ve got a few check marks on your list and you’re venturing into less well-trodden territory – hmm… office space is probably in the Property section, new employees in the shiny Personnel section, business plans in the DIY section.
Even when you get to the section, it still takes you a while to find what you’re looking for. You now get to the point where you are looking at the list and you realise you’re lost.
You’ve gotta ask someone. You approach a shop assistant (“Sharon” is written on her name tag) and ask her where you might find company formation. “Oh, that’s in the Legal section over there. If you walk down there, past Property and hang a right at Personnel, you’ll find it right next to Accounting’’. Cool. That means I can do tax registration at the same time.
Aweeeeesome. You’re done. You get to the checkout, take one final look at the list, turn the toilet paper over and there it is… “How do you present yourselves?’’ You now look like a dog that’s been shown a card trick. On asking Sharon where you can find that, she just shrugs her shoulders and says, “Search me.’’
Almost everything on your list is something “physically doable’’ – buy a company phone, rent office space, register a company, employ a person, go somewhere to sign a piece of paper or get a stamp. ‘’How you are going to present yourself’’’ is ethereal. Completely ethereal. And tricky to spell. Even more tricky to do. Brian (the tech guy) and I hadn’t even thought about it. Never crossed our minds. Brian’s so focused on the tech side that if it doesn’t have a keyboard and a screen, it doesn’t exist.
We both look at Ann, our All Seeing, All Knowing Marketing Being, who says, “Oh, I know how to do that.’’ Our relief is palpable, like a mother, who finally finds her kid who’s wandered off in a shopping centre. After Ann had explained to Brian and I what ‘’How we are going to present ourselves’’ means, I sat down, decoded the message and came up with this:
We did all this. It took a long time, but we got there in the end. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you about the step BEFORE all the cool designy stuff happened. According to Ann, this step is called the ‘’what are you trying to resolve in the market and what you want to be for your customers’’ step. Now, Brian and I didn’t revise this bit for the exam. We were hoping the question wouldn’t come up. We asked Ann if this could be the multiple choice section. ‘’Ok,’’ she said.
‘’Are you going to be
a. customer focused
b. best in class
c. the cheapest on the market’’
Brian and I passed.
“The answer is a., guys,’’ she said. “Cool, we can get behind that,’’ we said. “Good,’’ she said. “Now, you’re going to have to make trade-offs. When you are customer focused, the customer experience is the one thing you don’t trade-off when making business decisions. This means that you will have to trade-off on profits in some cases because you have to go the extra mile.’’
“But, that’s what we’ve all agreed from the get go,’’ said Brian and I. “Good,’’ she said, “Now the logo and the symbols mean something to both the customer and to us.’’
Your shopping list takes you around the “Supermarket of Business’’. You know where some things are, you have an idea where some things might be and sometimes you have to ask for directions. Imelda Marcos’ shoe shopping list is far simpler and easier to do, but at the end of the day her list doesn’t have:
Find superhero costume with go-faster stripes for a Golden Retriever.