Every entrepreneur has to ask the question ‘What Am I Selling?‘
This is not a superficial question because it is critical to the way in which I market my business.
Charles Revlon said that whilst they manufactured cosmetics, they were really in the business of selling ‘Hope’ – selling ‘hope’ to women who wanted to look more beautiful.
We see this everywhere in brand selling – for example, the current Marks & Spencer Christmas advert weaves a magical illusion of Christmas and only at the end do you realise what is being sold when they post their name – a ‘magical’ Christmas courtesy of their products. (They conveniently ignore the horrendous shopping experience and queues at the tills!)
The same goes with the sale of top-brand cars – they are selling a luxury lifestyle – beautiful women, sharp clothes, perpetual youth and intoxicating sophistication. The car is almost an after-thought and cannot possibly live up to our expectations.
So this got me to thinking about ‘what am I selling?’ Yes, what am I really selling?
It’s certainly not information products about how to create an online business – it’s really much more than that. Yes, it’s a lot more than that!
My business is about offering freedom and independence to those currently working in a job that doesn’t fulfil them.
I did that for 25 years.
Yes, I made a good living but my spirit was strangled and suppressed by the burden of rules and obligation that are a necessary part of the corporate culture.
I wore a suit and tie for 25 years – I haven’t worn one since 2001 (other than for funerals and weddings to comply with social dress-code convention). These are symbols of enslavement to me.
A tie is like a leash around my neck – just squeezing hard enough to remind me gently and persistently that I am in bondage to the organisation.
The rules within a corporate culture can be extremely onerous – you have to comply, whether you agree with them or not if you want to remain a part of the company.
Someone worked out in my last job that every week there were 9 hours of required reading to stay abreast of local and head office bulletins where the rules were continually changed and upgraded.
It became almost a full-time job to keep abreast of the rules!
That’s oppression almost as bad as that in North Korea – it is almost like being watched and examined by the ‘thought-police’.
I did a consulting job for a large non-profit organisation about 9 years ago – it was no better there. This time it was political correctness that ruled the culture due to an over-bearing operations director.
The organisation was looking after people with learning difficulties and you had to very careful with your terminology so as not offend anyone. I hate political correctness and was glad when my assignment ended. It’s just another way of suppressing your thoughts and behaviour.
In every job you get customers you would rather not deal with but have to for one reason or another. In banking it was sometimes because their financial position was very good (or bad).
If a customer was in a bad financial position and you didn’t like them this was the worst position of all because no-one else wanted them and you were stuck with each other in trying to resolve a difficult situation. There’s really no joy in business when you are forced to deal with each other from a position of mutual dislike!
When you are in a job you can often think that the business strategy is crap but you have to comply (or at least be seen to comply).
I well remember a diktat from Head Office in the recession of the early 1990’s requiring us to put up the interest margins for all customers. Ironically, the bank liked to think that we were ‘relationship’ managers i.e. that we nurtured a long-term, supportive relationship with our customers.
I’m not sure how they squared that thought with kicking our customers in the goolies when they were already down and fighting for survival. That sort of treatment is never forgotten and, quite rightly, a relationship of mutual trust is lost forever.
The other problem is that ‘creatives’ are not welcome in an organisation that works by a set of rules – they don’t want you to change things or create anything. In fact you are a dangerous individual if you start to buck the system.
The other factor is the daily commute. My daughter and son-in-law currently have a 3 hour, uncomfortable daily commute into London each day – that’s a massive portion of their life wasted travelling on unreliable public transport!
And it costs them a small fortune in train fares to participate in this madness!
In my bank, the organisation was so vast that they had an internal directory that was a couple of inches thick. The fact is that I couldn’t track down the person responsible if even I had wanted to suggest any changes. The job roles of those responsible for particular services bore no relationship to the actual services themselves!
Of course, starting your own business does not shield you from the absurdities of business. The only reassurance I can offer you in that regard is that at least the absurdities are usually of your own making. You can choose to change them yourself because you alone are responsible for everything that happens, good or bad, in your business.
This is what ‘freedom‘ means. It brings new responsibilities and you have to set your own standards and rules for doing business.
Personally, I would now rather live in a cardboard box than comply with someone else’s rules (- this is why I hate all politicians and particularly those in the EU who are unelected).
Starting your own business allows you to create something that works in a way that fits in with your values and the way you would like to earn a living i.e. doing something that really interests you, in a way that you feel comfortable with.
In many ways the stresses and responsibilities of running your own small business are even greater than being one of the sheeple i.e. a compliant employee creating someone else’s vision of what their business should be. If you fail, then you may have to return to employment to earn a living having had an intoxicating taste of freedom.
That thought alone will drive me to success in my business!
The other big benefit of knowing what you are selling is that you can start to define your target market i.e. who might be interested in what you have to offer. In my case it will be people either looking for a viable exit from their job or who have left a job and want to stay out of a job (like me!)
But first I needed to ask the question ‘What Am I Selling?’ because it is vital that I understand what I am really selling and I think I have the answer. I am selling FREEDOM.