VBOC offers “Plan it!” the first in a trilogy of free small-business seminars.
Say you have a goat, and you are selling your goat at auction as USDA grade A meat. Your buyers are vendors looking for large orders of high-quality product to ship to a number of locations. How much would these buyers appreciate a petting zoo in order to meet your goat before deciding on a sale?
Let’s say you’re selling that same goat direct to local farm-to-table restaurants in Oregon at a farmer’s market. Having a petting zoo situation in this case could potentially boost your sales as your target market consists of people concerned with the well-being and lifestyle of the animal.
In the end, you’re selling the same goat, with the same credentials, it is the potential customer base that has changed, and with it, the way you meet their specific needs.
“It’s all about listening to your customer. If you think it’s important, but your customer doesn’t, you’re just wasting money.” Dominique Juleon spoke to attendees of the “Plan It” course, the first in a trilogy of discussions put on by the Veterans Business outreach Program. Working with everyone individually and then breaking into groups, Juleon created a dynamic classroom atmosphere where small business owners expressed the diverse opportunities and challenges unique to them, while using each other as knowledgeable sounding boards.
“The idea is to share and talk about your idea, so you can create the building blocks of your business plan,” says Juleon, “What are you good at? What are your customers looking for? The more specific and niche you can be, the more successful you will be and the easier it is to communicate.” The class used graphics and personalized flow charts to brainstorm everything from key activities and resources, to defining and managing customer relationships. Simply having access to these tools can be a game changer, and business planning becomes a way of thinking, rather than a dense, structured essay.
You can think about any problem in life the way you think about your business model, and Juleon structures her classes to generate your “plan” organically. It was fascinating how different the process was, identifying each piece of the puzzle through stories and questions, it felt more like a community event and less like a personal chore.
By the end of the class, Juleon revealed that through our discussions, we had created the essential segments of a classic business model. She encourage us to reach out to each other, to talk things out, that it’s ok to scrap an idea that doesn’t pan out, ““You may do market research and find that a small part of your vision could be your biggest moneymaker, so do that, and pay off your fixed costs, then focus on the rest, it’s all gravy at that point.”
The crux of the seminar was this, focus first on your customer, identify who they are, and how you can fill their needs and then structure your business model through that lens. Use your community as a sounding board to test out ideas and gain as much perspective as possible going in. The business model writes itself through discussions such as these, and the more specific you can be, the stronger your business coming out of the gate.