Story by Kathy O’Reilly – North Island Eagle
Community Futures’ Business Start Up sessions usually have four installments.
However, Riley Zimmerman, Community and Business Development Coordinator for Community Futures Mount Waddington, presented a much-abbreviated version to attendees at the Mount Waddington Health Network Fall Food Forum held Wednesday, Nov. 14 at the Seven Hills Golf & Country Club.
Zimmerman, who was born and raised in Port Hardy, discussed some of the things people need to keep in mind when starting a business.
“Why is number one,” he said. Every organization and every business in the world know what they do; 99 per cent know how they do it; but a very small percentage of organizations know why they actually do what they do. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
A classic example of a company that understands this concept is Apple.
“If they were like anyone else, and they were trying to sell you a computer, they would start with what, go to how, go to why, and a marketing message from Apple would sound something like … We make great computers, we do this by making them user friendly, easy to use, beautifully aesthetically pleasing, want to buy one?” Zimmerman said. But that’s not how Apple sells computers.
“Every Apple commercial you see goes something like this, he said, … We believe in changing the status quo; we believe in being different; we do this by making computers that are user friendly, beautiful to look at, want to buy one?” This message is “much more powerful.”
Patagonia is another company that focuses on why. “They are trying to save the environment by selling high-quality clothing that you don’t have to replace every year,” Zimmerman said.
A business’ why can be anything. “It could be that you want to support local movements, you want to support the community or you want to bring fresh food to tons of individuals.”
When starting, a business concept should be created. “I say a business concept is like a baby business plan. I think it is really important for people to start writing their ideas down on paper. That’s a struggle I see a lot of people deal with, getting their ideas from their head onto paper.” A business concept can be as simple as writing down the answers to easy questions such as: What are you selling? Where are you located? Who are you selling to? “Are you selling to Port Alice, are you selling to the North Island, are you selling beyond? Always keep that in mind. The more specific you can be about your target market, the better.”
Zimmerman also encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to be different. “You don’t have to be better than your competitors, but you have to be different from them in some way, shape or form,” he said. “In the simplest form you can just sell a different product.
“You can change your prices, you can have cool logos, everything like this makes you different.”
Another important factor is to not undersell yourself. “This is the number one mistake I see most businesses and organizations make when they come to me,” Zimmerman said. “I talk about their business idea a little bit, and I eventually get to what are you going to charge for your product or service and almost always, without fail, people are too low, in my personal opinion,” he said. When they are starting a business, people are often afraid to charge a higher price. “I always tell people if your price is too low and you decide I am not making enough money, I better raise my price, all of your customers are upset with you.” However, if prices are a little bit too high to start, and no one is buying from you, “you can always lower your prices, and everyone is happy with you. “So really think about this when you are starting a business.”
Not being organized with their time is another mistake Zimmerman sees new business owners make. “I see people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to get ahead, trying to make everyone happy, and you should be trying to make people happy, but be really organized with your time.” He encourages new entrepreneurs to think SMART – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. “I always tell people to write down their milestones, assumptions, goals, tasks, based on this metric, always with a date attached,” said Zimmerman. A milestone is something you would tell your husband or wife or partner about. “A milestone is ‘honey today we opened our store’. A milestone is not ‘honey I ordered stationary’. Milestones in my
opinion are the most important ones to write down.”
Zimmerman said at the end of the day, it is the little things a business does that build customer loyalty and success. “When you can do the little things, and go a little bit above and beyond, this is what breeds customer loyalty, and this is what makes customers fans of yours for life.”
He also encourages business owners to listen to their customers and get feedback
about how they could do things differently, or better, and what they are doing right.
“I don’t think enough people do this nearly as much as they should.”
While starting a business can be scary, Zimmerman said not to fear failure.
“Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 times to invent the light bulb, most great entrepreneurs in the world have failed before, it just comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur, and it’s just that ability to get yourself back up.”
For help with your business idea call 250-956-2220 or visit cfmw.ca.