Does Your Business Have Soul? The Secret Driver of True Customer...
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The silver bullet of ecommerce strategy is simple: figure out what problem you’re solving, and then make sure you have people to solve it for. The trick, as Rick Wilson argues on the new episode of the Dragonproof Podcast, is to have personal, principled passion for both.
In the third installment of Rick’s “Dragonproof Principles” series for entrepreneurs, Miva’s CEO lays out several core principles which must underlie everyday decisions about product selection, channel, and company goals.
Rick advises every budding seller to focus on products which answer a need they personally have. “When you’re looking at what to sell, the answer almost always derives from what products you would personally use yourself. In other words, solve a problem that you personally need solved.”
Famously, entrepreneurs Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp created Uber after having trouble finding city cabs in a Paris snowstorm. That’s another way of describing a passion they had for efficiency, which was lacking in the commercial environment. By using their own personal needs as a divining rod for where to invest, Kalanick and Camp created a company which today brings in about 4 billion in revenue per quarter.
An entrepreneur’s personal solutions must also be balanced with customer-oriented solutions, for issues which consumers struggle with in the real world. A great recent example of this is the move by many brick & mortar sellers to offer parking lot services as a direct solution to Covid restrictions and fears.
“Those are the businesses that thrived in the pandemic,” Rick observes. “These business identified a problem in the market, and because their focus was squarely on solving that problem, resources and technology were deployed in a fruitful direction. They saw how to adapt to their customers’ up-to-the-moment needs.”
The purpose of developing a strong mission statement and set of core values goes beyond great company culture. These are foundational elements of the total operations of a healthy business, and should be used liberally when setting tactical plans.
“My personal goal has always been to have a business that I was proud of, to have employees that I was proud of, and to build a culture I was proud of,” Rick says. “Those personal principles have translated into a company mission to support and nurture client businesses that our customers can be proud of. All of our practical decisions, from product development to pricing, must align with those strong, simple goals.”
The consumer investment juggernaut Robinhood offers a textbook example of letting a principled company mission inform product choices. The stated goal of the company was simple and powerful: democratize the investing experience and remove barriers to entry for everyday consumers. Starting from this foundational idea, they set about creating their product—an app which removes most of the traditional technical hassles of investing by prioritizing user-friendly functionality. The product perfectly matches the mission.
Every seller needs to be able to say this about every product, and about everything around the product. Does the shopping experience itself match the company’s core principles? If not, businesses can get caught flat-footed in the friction between the two. The place to start is by defining those values as clearly as possible, and then letting all actions stem from there.
Whether you are trailblazing new products or refining existing projects, your choices must be dictated by more than market research.
Steve Jobs is often thought of as an innovator, but his real talent was arguably in taking existing products in the marketplace and perfecting them. The iPod was not the world’s first mp3 player, but it solved many crucial limitations of every player that had come before, such as navigation, integration with content platforms, battery life, and ergonomics. Jobs did not invent a GUI interface, but he brought the concept to a mass audience in a way which directly solved for existing problems. This does not in any way diminish his achievement or indicate any deficit of principles or passion. Jobs simply had a passion for delivering the best possible user experience, and acted from that guiding principle.
Conversely, some entrepreneurs truly do create things that the world has never seen before. To the extent that these new inventions align with principles and solve real problems in the marketplace, they are primed to succeed. When Dean Kamen created the Segway in 2001, he was driven by a principled desire to revolutionize personal mobility. His device may have taken two decades to truly show how prescient it was, but the evidence of how necessary its solution is can be seen today in the wave of rising micro-mobility players like Bird.
Both of these iconic entrepreneurs delivered concepts which aligned with company goals and personal passions. Everyday retailers will benefit from doing the same.
While many businesses are justifiably hesitant about launching any new initiatives in the wake of the past 18 months, Rick points out that passionate entrepreneurship is always valuable to the economy. Difficult market conditions only make the need for principled solutions greater.
“The question I am most often asked is, is it a good time to start a business? And the answer is overwhelmingly and always yes...if you have a strong understanding of what problems you are trying to solve, and why you want to solve them.” That’s the bedrock of success in any season.
To listen to Rick’s full thoughts about principles and passion in entrepreneurship, stream the new Dragonproof Podcast here.
Miva offers a flexible and adaptable ecommerce platform that evolves with businesses and allows them to drive sales, maximize average order value, cut overhead costs, and increase revenue. Miva has been helping businesses realize their ecommerce potential for over 20 years and empowering retail, wholesale, and direct-to-consumer sellers across all industries to transform their business through ecommerce.