Thursday, June 26, 2008
Are you asking the right questions?
|I’ve been having some interesting conversations with business owners recently. Depending on whom you talk to, business is either great despite the bad economic news or business is down 20 percent to 40 percent from last year.
After making sure Plan B is in place to ensure survival, I turn the conversation to opportunities. That’s right….opportunities. I’m a firm believer that any market change, up or down, presents business owners with new opportunities. But are you seeing them? Hearing them?
Your customers have new pains right now. Perhaps their sales are down, they’ve had to lay off employees and require remaining employees to be significantly more productive. Or maybe the rising price of gas is causing employees to look for jobs closer to home. Or, maybe the demand for their product or service is booming, but they can’t get enough supply. Whatever the new challenge is…do you know it? Are you thinking “outside the box” to see if you can solve it?
I just finished reading an article titled, “Lessons of the Square Watermelon.” In short, grocery stores in Japan didn’t like the fact that watermelons were round. They wasted a lot of space on the shelf. Most of us would say, “Well, that’s life. Watermelons are round” and leave it at that. But one group of Japanese farmers did not assume the problem was impossible to solve. In short order, they figured out how to grow square watermelons. Now the stores (their customer) could display more watermelons, and they found that they were easier and cheaper to ship. The stores’ customers, the consumer, loved them because they took up less space in their refrigerators. The added benefit to the farmer? They are selling more and can charge a premium price for the square watermelon.
Are you asking the right questions of your customer? Are you listening differently or are you making the same old assumptions? Are you asking yourself, how can we do this? What is a better way? What has your customer wished for lately that you dismissed as not my core product/service? What has she requested that you dismissed as impossible?
We can all learn from the square watermelon. What new opportunities have you uncovered in this economy? Write and let me know.