“This is not the Field of Dreams!” is my favorite line from a piece entitled Busting The 10 Biggest Small Business Myths. The point behind this statement is that the “build it, and they will come” motto from the famous 1989 movie is not one that works in the small business arena.
Just because someone publishes a novel doesn’t mean that they can expect their novel to be crowned the next New York Times bestseller and the next feature film destined for marquees across the country. Just because someone receives a patent for their latest invention doesn’t mean their invention is the next multi-million dollar idea. Just because someone spends a month painting a canvas doesn’t mean the world will see them as the next Pablo Picasso. In other words, building something new does not mean others will line up and support you, your product, and/or your service.
Perhaps one of the places this point, that it’s not enough to just create a product and/or service, is hit home best is on the American reality TV show Shark Tank. This show features a panel of investors and successful business executives who listen to pitches from entrepreneurs and small business owners. Those entrepreneurs and small business owners seek financial backing for their products and/or services, and the panel (i.e. Sharks) asks those making pitches questions to better determine if working with the pitcher seems financially lucrative. The Sharks do not work with any pitcher simply because they created something, even if the product truly is one-of-a-kind. As one journalist noted, the Sharks look for:
- Something They’re Interested In
- A Proven Money Maker
- Someone They Respect
- Someone Who’s Committed
- Long-Term Potential
- A High-Profit Margin
- Affordable Products and Services
- A Salesperson
- A Realistic Negotiator
- A Full-Time Founder
The moral of the story: Distribution matters. Marketing matters. A consistent and committed product, service, and business matters.
What small businesses with decades of success have in common is that they did not merely create a product and/or service and expect people to line up down the street and around the corner. Customers need not only a GPS (i.e. knowledge of where to find a product) but also, they need an Old Farmer’s Almanac perspective from a company (i.e. a belief that a business has a clear understanding of long-range predictions for their business, which they use as a guide for present-day decisions).
So the next time you see a small business that’s survived years of competition and an ever-changing marketplace, remember to see them as more than a product and/or service. See them as the strategic, creative, and consistently hard-working entrepreneurs they’ve been called to be since the day they were brave enough to hang their open for business sign on their front door.
Author: Evelyn Lindell