A tiger in the wild.

To be a small business owner, you need to have a healthy ego. You have to have enough faith in yourself to think you can make money based solely on your talents. You have to believe in yourself enough to price your goods and services at a level that’ll let you earn a living. You’ve gotta believe that you’re good. But that same ego which gives you enough courage to start a business can be your downfall.

So many entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating their dream business. The walls are pink because they like pink. The logo has a tiger because that’s the spirit animal which came to them in a dream. They’re located in a place that’s convenient to their house but miles from the interstate. Everything in the business is their dream, forgetting to take into account what their customers dream of. And that’s when businesses fail.

Truly great entrepreneurs don’t go into business because they love themselves. They really don’t even go into business because they love their field, whether that’s marketing, manufacturing or macramé. Rather, they do it because they love helping their customers succeed in that arena. They’re passionate about helping people create the marketing that fits them; they love creating widgets that solve problems; they can’t get enough of the smiles on their customers’ faces when they look at the beautiful things which they have created. Great businesses are outwardly focused, not inwardly.

When you’re designing your business, stop thinking about your own wants and needs. Don’t think about what’s convenient for you. Every decision should come down to “What does my customer feel about this? How will it affect them?” To take a step back, you must begin with really knowing who your customer is and what need you’re fulfilling. These needs fall into two categories: the root and the solution. The solution is what a customer ultimately buys–marketing, widgets, marcamé. The root cause is why customers buy: to make their business better, to be more efficient, to keep warm. To succeed, you’ve got to understand both the root and the solution and sell in a way that addresses each issue. Who you are, what you want, what you like? It doesn’t really enter into it.

Ego is what makes you strong and brave and able to do what you do. But empathy and understanding are what  make you successful. Take a step back from your own constrained point of view and really understand your customer. Great things happen when you do.

photo credit: catlovers via photopin cc