A little bit of Business.
Well I admit, this is a little different to the regular posts, but what the heck, it’s time I talked a little about my add-vantage course. To be more precise, I thought I’d reflect on a task I was set, and apply it to a business idea of my own. But if any of you out there consider yourselves to be budding entrepreneurs and future tycoons, maybe this could come in handy for you too.
Firstly, I think a lot of people are put off by the whole ‘business’ thing because of the numbers. All those statistics, the ‘data’, the stereotypical coffee-stained spread-sheet salads that the corporate zombies are depicted to munch on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make no mistake, number crunching is a staple part of the bigger picture, but there is so much more than that. If you have an idea that you are passionate about then the ‘numbers’ are a necessary evil, besides, once you’ve got that out of the way there is everything else to enjoy. The creative freedom, the ability to see your dream become a reality, that’s worth any fair share of grey-scale chores. My idea is…
…actually I don’t feel comfortable going into the details. Tell you what, you think about YOUR idea and I’ll think about mine, deal?
Right, now we’re in agreement let’s move on to look at one particular part of business, an essential part of business. Market Research. It’s cut-throat out there, so it is essential that your business stays one step ahead of your would-be competitors. Yes there is a tonne of other stuff to think about, the branding, the consumer interaction, the planning, etc. But if someone else out there that is doing what you’re doing (more or less) or offering alternatives or have any chance of taking your customer base they are a THREAT. What do you do to combat this? Market Research. You really get to know your market, you learn how to make your customers happier, you find out what they want. Find out how to make them come back to you no matter what. It’s business 101, survival. This all links in with a little thing called ‘Porter’s Five Forces’, well it’s not a little thing, it’s huge. No doubt some of you will be familiar with it, the illustrated representation below clearly indicates to us the importance of market research.
It’s pretty simple, you want as many aces up your sleeve as possible. Getting cosy with the customers ensures you hold one of the forces in your favour, which has a knock on effect on the rest.
Convinced? You should be. Now, let’s look at market research even more. With a little bit of a case study to make things easier. ‘Portakabin’, a UK based leader in provisional modular buildings. Not the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s an example.
Portakabin’s ‘market’ consist of organisations that need temporary additional work/teaching spaces for their employees/students whilst they upgrade or modify existing architecture. It’s pretty simple, everyone needs to upgrade now and again, but they don’t want to risk shooting themselves in the foot when they do it. Portakabin’s research allows them to understand what employees and students need in a building to keep them happy and productive, by offering modular spaces that keep the output high they have a market of willing customers. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. The organisation can re-vamp whatever they need ‘re-vamping’ whilst their people remain happy and busy. Portakabin makes money ensuring this operation is smooth, simple and cost-effective. Good idea = profit.
So with that taken into consideration, the rest should be pretty easy to understand. Portakabin need to understand WHAT makes employees happy in the workplace, because a happy worker is more productive (apparently). If they can implement whatever that secret ingredient is into their research and development, they have the next big thing… in portaloos or whatever. Think about what YOUR customer wants, what they look for, implement it into your product or service. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s well worth the effort if you ask me or anyone else with common sense, not to imply that you don’t have any! I’m rambling again, so on to the next big point.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of Market research you’ve got two kinds, ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative‘. You can conduct ‘Primary’ or ‘Secondary’ research. Primary involves getting out there and gathering the data yourself, whereas secondary, you guessed it, involves going through existing documentation, reports and information that can help provide a little bit of clarity to your research.
Qualitative is all about the facts, feelings and emotions of the market. If you can extract and analyse this then you can develop ideas that will make money. The customer is always right (even if they are an ass). Talking to the customer and listening to their opinions gives you a more human touch, this should never be ignored. The only downside is it’s a long and tedious process, things like focus groups are quite handy for that. Portakabin for example find out how satisfied their customers are, and what they would like to see change to suit them.
Quantitative is more scientific, it’s down to the number figures, the statistics. Things you obtain from being black and white about everything. Surveys, questionnaires and things of that nature are a perfect way to get your fix of quantitative data. I don’t need to go any further into this, it speaks for itself, Portakabin’s Quantitative research consists of finding out about the statistics of productivity and happiness in the workplace or classroom.
The most important thing is getting a good balance of those four things in good combinations. Do this, and stay on top. How can YOU do that with your business? Statistics can make sense of opinions, opinions get meaning out of statistics. Put one and one together to make it all a little clearer, to get you closer to a eureka moment you can cash in on.
Okay, enough with the Portakabin case study. It wasn’t really a case study anyway, more of an example. But do you see how important research is? There is a hell of a lot to the game of the intrepid entrepreneur, making sense of each little piece of the puzzle should be your first concern before jumping into the belly of the beast head on.
I hope sharing my learnings helped, it sure did for me.