The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Who are you trying to impress?

by Dr Greg Chapman

When most people start a business, they tend to look around for other successful businesses, usually in their own sector, to come up with a plan. There is nothing wrong with this. But it may also cause you to adopt the bad habits in the sector.

After being in business for a while, it is easy to become a part of the culture of your chosen sector. We all know the stereotypes. Accountants are conservative, butchers are outgoing, tradespeople never turn up when they should and motor mechanics overcharge. (I apologise immediately to all these people as this is a gross generalisation and you can point to many businesses for whom this is simply not true.) Now some of these stereotypes are a good thing. For example, I don’t think we want our accountant to be a risk taker. But for every stereotype, there is an opportunity.

Many businesses are successful because they break the mould. They do something different from their competitors. There is one doctor I heard about that decided that he would be different by making sure his patients never had to wait to see him. Would you want to see a doctor like that? Now most people expect that they have to wait to see their doctor, and to be frank, doctors expect you to wait. And in fact, would regard what this other doctor did (he ran his practice like a business) as unprofessional.

There is often pressure in a sector to conform. And the culture in a sector often gives the businesses permission to offer lower quality service. Like its ok for a plumber not to turn up on time, because, all plumbers are like that. Aren’t they?

To offer something different compared with your competitors is not easy, or else everyone would be doing it. The doctor whose patients never had to wait, had to totally redesign his business. He looked outside his industry to see how he could do it.

All to often I have heard from owners: “We don’t do things that way in our industry”. But if you want something different from everyone else in your sector, you must do something different. So ask yourself: “Who am I trying to impress, my competitors or my clients?”

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions

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