For many Connecticut homeowners, lying down at night is not a relaxing experience. While they try to rest, they can’t fight the anxiety and tension as they wonder whether tonight will be the night their house finally collapses. Nearly 30,000 Connecticut homeowners are plagued with the same problem—their homes are literally crumbling due to bad foundations. Apparently, these foundations used concrete from the same quarry possessing a particular mineral that compromised the durability of the concrete.
I feel fortunate that I have a home where I can relax, without any thought of disaster at the hands of a weak foundation. I have confidence in the materials used, the method of construction, and the durability of the home as it rests on its solid base. As for the homes in Connecticut, regardless of how beautiful the houses look, the work and expense in the craftsmanship, or the amount of repair work, the homes have the same crumbling fate.
Likewise, many business owners lie in bed at night worried about the future of their business. While I can’t say that I don’t have the occasional restless night, I have confidence that I have built my businesses on a secure foundation that can withstand temporary imbalance, strain, or pressure. To those just starting a business—those who are still in the foundational period of growth—here are four aspects of your business to ensure you concretely understand.
1. What real problem do we solve?
First things first, a business idea should be grounded in solving a real problem. If your product or service offering can alleviate a significant pain point for a consumer, it will have a much higher chance of success. While we often see fleeting products that solve a minor inconvenience (like the microwave bag to cook a Poptart in five seconds rather than the conventional sixty seconds in the toaster), successful businesses solve problems that create major inefficiency or missed opportunity. If you feel that you’ve identified a real problem in from your own experience and industry, validate the problem with others—confirm your belief.
2. Who are my customers?
If you know what problem you are solving, you probably also understand who is most affected. However, don’t stop at a surface level understanding. Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and understand who they are, what motivates them, and what keeps them up at night. Don’t miss the opportunity to do your homework through focus groups and market research. This thorough research not only creates a strong foundation, but it can also assist you in data-driven marketing at the time you begin to advertise your product or services. A data services company like ANS can take the commonalities you’ve identified in your target customers to create a more robust customer profile and help you identify other individuals likely to be interested in your business’ offering.
3. What (niche) market can we operate in?
The expression, “You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea,” holds true as we determine what market in which to grow our business. Generally speaking, it is better to be highly specialized than to provide a general service. While your offering may not appeal widely across markets, the niche that is most affected by the problem you solve will be the market where you’ll most likely thrive. While niches tend to be smaller markets, make sure that there are enough potential customers to allow for sustained growth.
4. How should we position our product/service?
Positioning your product includes both developing a brand image and culture and determining the approach you will take in marketing your product. Take the time to decide the “personality” of the business and how you want it to be presented to consumers. Brand image is not just for large businesses but is important even for a startup. It does not take an exorbitant amount of money to create branding that is consistent with that culture. Ensure that as a consumer sees your branding, they can answer questions like, “What does this business stand for,” or, “Why does this brand stand out from competitors.”
Speaking of competitors, look at how current market leaders position their product or service. This is a good starting place as you position your product. However, position your business in a way that highlights your points of difference, maintaining your authenticity, while not competing with existing leaders on the points of parity.
As one grows a new business, it is easy to place too much emphasis on the external attributes and neglect the groundwork. Just like the homes in Connecticut, regardless of the work put into the framing and finishing work, without a well-developed, stable foundation, the houses will eventually fall. Do not ignore the foundation of your business. Take the time upfront to consider the problem you solve, who your customers are, the niche market you can thrive in, and how you will position your product. Ensure the future success and stability of your business by focusing now on the foundation you will build it on.