Eleven years ago, I was absolutely naïve.
I had such a high opinion of myself.
It was the summer of 2008. I had just finished graduate school.
I mistakenly believed that just because I got a graduate degree, employers would be knocking down the door to hire me.
In 2008, that just wasn’t the case.
Five years earlier, I struggled with the same predicament.
In 2003, I had just finished my accounting degree.
When I got my bachelor’s degree that summer, I was without a job.
I had been so focused on the academics, that I didn’t do the job search thing.
I thought in 2003, that employers were going to be lining up to hire me.
After all, I got a good college degree from a good college.
My whole life, I heard the same message over and over again.
Get good grades so that you can go to college so that you can get a good job.
The good job just didn’t materialize.
It was disheartening.
When I started graduate school in 2008, I was determined that this time, things were going to be different.
I was going to do everything I could to exit graduate school with a good-paying job.
Otherwise, what was the point of investing the time and money into getting another degree?
I did everything I could not to repeat the history of leaving college again with a degree and no job.
History ended up repeating itself in 2008.
While on the one hand, it was wonderful to be finished with college, on the other hand it was deflating to have just added more student debts to my life and no way to pay for them.
This time things were more serious.
In 2003, I was still in my twenty’s, and it was just my wife in me.
In 2008, my wife and I had two young daughters and a lovely mortgage to pay.
I did the only thing I knew to do.
I knew I wanted to be a business owner.
I figured that the chances of me finding a job in accounting were minimal.
I decided that my best option was to use my accounting skills to work with small business owners.
There was no time like the present to start building up a client list that would pay me to do their monthly accounting.
I took a path that most people take when they start a business.
I had been employed as an accountant, so I started an accounting business.
I assumed that all I had to do was hang out a shingle, and there would be no shortage of work.
I was sorely mistaken. Nobody came knocking on my door.
However, I was an unknown commodity.
I started to network with every waking moment I had available.
To find business owners, I attended events that business owners attended.
It took a lot of hard work, and I finally gained some traction.
In the last couple of months, I’ve reviewed what I did eleven years ago to salvage my financial life.
I had a different focus back then.
I was desperate.
I needed to make things.
There was a big difference in my focus then versus now.
In 2008, the dominant thoughts I had were centered on me.
When someone asked me who my ideal customer was, I had no answer.
That’s not entirely correct.
I did have an answer.
My answer was I wanted to work with small business owners.
That narrowed the field of customers down a little bit.
However, my response that I wanted to work with small business owners really doesn’t mean anything.
I might as well have said I wanted to work with monkeys.
What could I do to get people to pay me?
All the focus was on me.
What could I do to get paid?
Now eleven years later, I’ve decided to change my approach.
I decided to make my business more about my customers.
Now I’ve narrowed down my focus even more.
Now my ideal customer is a Realtor that has a team of agents or will have a team of agents working for.
I’ve taken the time to develop a customer avatar.
My ideal customer’s name is Ann Johnson.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time identifying Ann’s attributes
Additionally, I’ve identified the personality characteristics of the type of person Ann is.
Ann is the type of person that writes handwritten thank you notes.
Ann is a successful Realtor that struggles with the money side of her Realtor business.
Ann has two young children named Gavin and Sara.
Ann is overwhelmed with her business and home life.
At times Ann resents work because it takes her away from family. Other times she resents her family because they take her away from the work that she loves.
She struggles with understanding the money side of her business.
Ann lives commission check to commission check.
Most months she and her husband George spend everything they make.
“Why do things have to be so complicated?” is a that continually races through her mind.
There is never enough time to get done everything that must be done. At times she feels trapped, and she doesn’t think there is a way out.
I’ve been listing to Seth Godin’s newest book. This is Marketing.
In the book, he talks about the futility of going out with our toolkit of solutions and asking people to buy from us.
As Seth explains it, this is like grabbing a key and finding a lock to unlock.
The better approach is to search for the lock first. Then make a key that will open the lock.
The message I took away from this example is the first priority is to get to know your customer first.
Understand that customer intimately.
Learn what her deepest desires are.
Learn what she struggles with.
Learn what her motivations are.
Learn what is most important to her.
Once you know what’s important to her, then you can figure out a way to help her.
Once you figure out a way to help her, then you have the ability to serve her, and she will pay you handsomely for making her life better.
Another lesson I learned from Seth’s book is, “Business is about serving the customer.”
That is so important, I’ll repeat it.
Business is about service.
Until I get to know my customer, there is no way I will be able to serve her because I never got to know what her problems are.
Before I can be of service to Ann Johnson, I must walk a mile in her shoes.