Entrepreneurial guru, Michael Gerber says, “Process makes the ordinary business, extraordinary.”
There’s no doubt that process can help create a sustainable, scalable business — one that can have value without the founder’s involvement. Yet many entrepreneurs launch businesses that are based on their personal delivery of the product or service. Without them, there is no business.
Entrepreneurs typically go into business because they’re passionate about what they do and the way they do it. Therefore, it’s hard for them to let go of the day-to-day tasks because they feel as though no one else can do it as well as they can. They trudge through long days and are typically limited in the amount of revenue they can generate. They don’t see how they can transform their product or service into one that can be easily taught, repeated, and consistently delivered.
Last week, I heard Judi Sheppard Missett speak at an economic summit. In case you’ve never heard of Judi, she founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. Today, the company hosts a network of 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in 32 countries. I’ll share a few highlights of the Jazzercise story as an example of how you can turn your passion into a sustainable business.
Dancing is very personal. Every dancer has his or her own style and technique. When Missett started teaching jazz classes for fitness at night while pursuing her career as a professional dancer in the theater, she could have stopped there. However, as her classes became more and more popular, she decided to expand and found herself teaching on a full-time basis. She soon realized that her success was limited because the classes depended on her personal involvement, so she began teaching others her techniques and choreographed the classes in advance. Because Missett crated a system and a process, Jazzercise instructors were able to go out on their own as independent business owners and branches opened up around the globe.
Missett continues to ensure the quality of the classes taught by her franchises. Instructors receive dance fitness routines choreographed to the latest music by Missett herself every 10 weeks. But Missett has her eye on her exit strategy. Her daughter has stepped in as President of the international company, and her two granddaughters are following in her footsteps as talented dancers. From a passion for dance, to a scalable, sustainable international enterprise, that’s the Jazzercise story.
Think about your own business and how you can build process into your operations so your company can grow beyond your individual efforts. There are also many things you can do today, to turn your passion into a great success tomorrow.
How have you turned your passion into a flourishing business? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
One of the most important things to consider as you refine the idea for your new business is your startup’s value proposition. Think about what makes your idea special. Consider why anyone should buy your product, or visit your website, or eat at your restaurant, or hire you as a consultant instead of using the alternatives. This is your value proposition.
Your business idea should include something beyond what everyone else in the marketplace already offers. Which unique attributes will your business will bring to the table: customer service, technology, a special process, better taste, lower price, faster delivery, or a combination of things? This is what will set you apart from your competition and make your product or service more appealing to your potential customers. Even something as simple as more attractive packaging could make the difference for many consumers.
Even brand-new concepts may fulfill the same function as older ones, so you’ll have to be clear on what you are providing that makes it worthwhile for people to break their habits and loyalties. If your concept is extremely cutting-edge, you may have to introduce your product by demonstrating why it’s game-changing to help people see how it can help them.
Square is an online/mobile payment technology that has revolutionized who and how credit card payments can be processed. Until Square, if you were a merchant wanting to accept credit cards, you had to get expensive equipment, complete onerous signup forms, and pay high fees. Square developed a little plug to insert into your iPhone/iPad that allows vendors to run credit card transactions immediately with easy and low cost setup options. Now, millions of small business owners can accept mobile payments on the go, like food vendors at a fair, admission fees for a concert, or joining a club. This technology has brought real novelty and innovation to the payments market which desperately needed to be more efficient. Congratulations to founder Jack Dorsey for a great value proposition.
As you think about what differentiates your business from all of the other options in the marketplace, you’ll want to consider the competition. Ask yourself who else is providing products or services that could meet your potential customers’ needs. Are there many or just a few companies vying for the same customers? What value proposition (similar to the “unique selling proposition” or USP by many marketers) does each of your competitors represent? I recommend that you do some basic market research by searching the Internet for the keywords you would use to describe your business. In addition to online research, you may want to conduct in-person research such as interviews or surveys. Try talking to people who buy your competitors’ goods or services. Find out what they like and dislike, what they wish were different, and what would make them switch to something new.
It is worth spending some time to articulate exactly what your startup’s value proposition will be. Need some help? Wicked Start offers many examples of value proposition statements for businesses in a variety of industries, including the food service, social media, and retail products. Mind Tools offers a 4-step process designed to help you create a short statement that clearly communicates the benefits that your potential client gets by using your product, service or idea. And Conversion XL presents specific ideas about what is – and what isn’t – a good statement of your value proposition.