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Being a chocolate and peanut butter entrepreneur

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist | Comments (3)

Posted on November 9, 2009 by admin

Chocolate and Peanut ButterThis morning on Venture Beat’s Entrepreneur Corner, serial entrepreneur, Scott Olson, posted an article, “Excel where your competitors suck.” In the article, he outlines a recent customer experience he had that, by nature of a contrast, made a competitor look really good.

How often does this happen?  You stand in line somewhere, frustrated with its slow pace or disappointing final result.  And instead of walking away satisfied, you walk away annoyed.  As a consumer, this is aggravating.  As an entrepreneur, though, this is a great opportunity.

In his article, Scott highlights the value of taking advantage of your competitor’s weakness to make inroads with new customers.  Obviously this is a potential acquisition opportunity, since most people don’t go to a new vendor, they leave an old one.

But I’d suggest that Scott’s point needs to go a step further: one of the keys to thinking like an entrepreneur, is to train yourself to recognize opportunity by creatively pairing problems with solutions.  More often than not, the best opportunities that jump out at us — whether they are examples of someone doing something really right, or really wrong — are in businesses that are totally unrelated to ours.  They are all fair game.

Just like the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials proclaimed: the power is in the combination of great ingredients to make a better end result.

A great example is the video rental business: thanks to Netflix and Redbox — two businesses with unique customer service propositions compared to the old video store model — Blockbuster expects to close as many as 40% of its stores over the next two years.

It was a true sign of entrepreneurial ingenuity that took an old idea (watching movies at home) and added a new twist (Netflix: mail order and Redbox: vending machines).  And because of legacy business issues — everything ranging from expensive infrastructure, to complex legal restrictions, to slow-to-change business ideas — Blockbuster has simply been unable to compete.

How many times per day do you see someone else’s business screaming out ideas at you, for ways to make yours better?  How do other businesses you encounter serve customers better or faster?  How do they make a compelling value proposition to be able to charge a higher rate?  How do they get their customers to be their brand evangelists and provide great word-of-mouth marketing for you?

Entrepreneurs are a scrappy, creative group.  And when you keep your eyes open, you’ll see great opportunities all around you.

What good ideas have you seen recently that you can put to work in your business?

  • Scott Olson

    Nice post Alora. Certainly creative thinking to address an existing market pain is a great approach toward success. As we both point out, taking advantage of your competitor’s customer dissatisfaction is a real opportunity to excel. Thanks for the added conversation.

  • Alora Chistiakoff

    Thanks, Scott. Part of what I love about working with entrepreneurs is that most of them are still nimble enough to be able to take advantage of those type of opportunities, if they see them in time. Large companies have too much baggage to always make it practical to turn on a dime and seize the moment. For all the challenges entrepreneurs face, one of the advantages of still being small is that if you have to adjust course, you’ve got far fewer cats to herd onto your new path. Thanks for the comment!

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