Changing the Business Mantra: Don’t Try to Take Over the World

Every entrepreneur dreams of turning their firm into a global leader. However, staying level headed can sometimes breed greater success

Changing the Business Mantra: Don’t Try to Take Over the World

I admire people who start and grow their own business. All that energy and optimism is enough to melt your heart. But so many make the mistake of thinking that success equals world domination.

Pick up any business book or guide and you’ll see a plethora of phrases ranging from ‘disrupting an entire industry’ to ‘force for change’, leading too many of us to believe that anything less is unacceptable.

It’s not surprising that many businesses believe that they must think global and disruption. Just look at the success stories; Uber has completely revolutionised the taxi industry, Deliveroo has turned food delivery on its head and Airbnb has transformed travel accommodation. It’s difficult to not feel you should aim your new business at similar lofty heights.

However, in most cases, the game changers we see around us today did not set out to achieve this status. In his book “The Mom Test”, Rob Fitzpatrick reminds us that;

“In the early days Google helped PhD students find obscure bits of code. Paypal helped collectors buy and sell Pez dispensers and Beanie Babies efficiently. Evernote helped moms save and share recipes.”

In fact, the PayPal website was launched primarily to redirect visitors to the PayPal app, built for the now-extinct handheld device Palm. No one had expected for PayPal to get so big so quickly.

As a business owner myself, I completely understand the bright-eyed and ambitious small business. But it’s important to keep your feet on the ground, have realistic expectations and create a product that you know people actually want.

Start small – don’t run before you can walk

Having a plan is essential, and being a company that completely changes an industry is a healthy goal. The issue is trying to go from zero to one hundred to quickly.

Every good entrepreneur can see a way that their product could satisfy a need or solve an issue. That should be the reason why you have gone into business in the first place. The mistake is thinking that your product or service will appeal to everyone.

If you begin your journey trying to please everyone you will get nowhere. While a product is being developed it needs to focus on a small group of potential users to make it the best it can possibly be.

Gumtree is a great example of this. Before it was purchased by eBay, the British company initially helped expats from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa settle into London by connecting with accommodation, employment and meeting new people. It was later in its journey that the company expanded its market not only to UK residents, but across the world.

Another is the mighty Deliveroo, which has now raised $100m in venture capital investment, but began with Will Shu, its founder, servicing three restaurants on his own bike.

Finding your niche

If your customer base is too broad, then you’ll find it very hard to learn. One person will tell you one thing while the next will tell you something completely different. How do you use this information to get the first iteration out the door? You don’t. Otherwise you will end up creating a Frankenstein style product that is a confusing mish mash of everything.

In the first instance, target one small group of users – the early adopters. Work with them and learn from them to help develop your product into something better.

For example, Carphone Warehouse, as the name suggests, started by selling portable phones for cars, thus only targeting a specific group of users. As the company has evolved and learned from its customers, it is now in a position to target anyone who has a mobile, and indeed a tablet, or requires insurance for these gadgets, SIM cards or phone accessories.

Nourish your audience

If you treat this group well and listen to their feedback, eventually they could act as brand ambassadors. Recommending your product to others and even defending you should you encounter hard times.

Then you’re ready to take over the world!


Tom Johnson is a co-founder of Lighthouse London.

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