We’ll bounce around a few quick topics this month.
• First: All my heart goes out to our friends in beautiful Lahaina, Maui. It’s a sad time for awesome people in an amazing town. It will come back … let’s help.
• So … we know there are many ways to start and build a business in this world; with tech and remote access, it’s arguably easier than ever to create your own future from home. Those who embark and succeed represent a small percentage; most of those who try, fail. It’s a tricky thing—but some of us would have it no other way. Mark Cuban supposedly once said he’d rather work for himself for a year for no pay, rather than work for anyone else for $100,000 per year. (I didn’t find a citation or verify that he said this, because the point is valid regardless.)
My startups are not about the income, at least not initially—but they are about solving a problem, or problems, for partners/customers. In my opinion, it’s much easier to convince someone that you can solve their problem or enhance their lives than it is to sell them something. There are many little tips I wish someone would have given me for the journey all those years ago. (Regrettably, some tips can only be learned individually—while on the journey.)
In a speech to a tech conference in Dakar, Senegal, in 2019, I talked about the “11 Truths of Entrepreneurship.” The first truth is first for a reason, and has been evident in every organization I’ve founded or co-founded: Business is not about business; business is about people. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is; if people don’t like you or trust you, they will not do business with you … it’s that simple. In my businesses, I think of each customer as a partner, not as a customer. Why? Because if we are partners, we will solve problems together and provide ongoing value to each other, as opposed to engaging in a transaction. A transaction is a one-time event. If you currently engage in transactions in your business, how can you transition those into alliances or partnerships, and create shareholders? If we focus on superior customer service, the revenues and profits will come.
These principles are not, of course, shared by all founders.
I know a successful service-based business owner who is doing about $4 million in revenue, with 30% margins … and a 10% repeat-customer rate. Yes, 10%. That means he needs to get nine new customers for every one he keeps. That is insane to me, and way too much work, even for a marketing guy like me. A service-based biz should have a huge repeat customer base. If it’s a one-time-per year-service or similar, then new customers should come from the steady recommendations of past customers. This is how I build all my companies—keeping the relationship and customer service absolutely paramount. The profits and revenues will come from the consistency and dependability provided. It’s nice to have a customer who wants you, and it’s even nicer to have a customer who needs you. My customers are the ones who can’t live without me. Find those customers.
• Let’s change hats for a bit. Our benevolent publisher has reached out to y’all to garner feedback and participation as the RN&R explores becoming a nonprofit. This is a big deal, and he wants to hear from the readers and supporters who have helped bring this paper back.
What is so important is that unlike other news pubs, this one is all about the Northern Nevada communities in which we live. It is focused on the local matters that don’t get published anywhere else, by anyone else. You could be a huge part of keeping this independent rag in business, on topic and solely for the community, as a board-driven not-for-profit. Perhaps you can help expose the next corrupt program, write the next exposé, or …?
Should the RN&R pivot this way, there are some important foundations dedicated to nonprofit journalism that could add to the scope and depth of what the RN&R represents, along with community members who care about this incredible part of the world, especially as it continues to boom. Try to think of ways help. It can’t hurt—and it may be one of the most important things you’ve done in a while. Help, guide—or get out of the way, and just read all about it.