Tag: Adding value

Relationships are like start-ups

Entering a niche

Starting small is a sure way to get started.

“Go niche or go broke.” -Tim Ferris, author of 4-hour-work-week

Most entrepreneurs establish their businesses by finding and entering a niche; small market, specific customer group, offering unique product or service. Most of the niches stay small but provide a decent living to the entrepreneur. Sometimes niches grow big and can create tremendous wealth to the founders. Many end up purchased by larger corporations which aren’t innovative or agile enough to operate in small markets.

Fundamental observation is that companies can’t start big. Every business needs to make their first sale. To grow big companies first need to come into life. If you meet a nice girl, she might feel uncomfortable if you kneel down and propose her right after saying hello. Relationships resemble start-ups in surprising ways.

In his book The $100 Startup (2012) Chris Guillebeau highlights the benefits of establishing and running a small business. Small ventures don’t necessarily require large investments and they usually originate from a passion towards an object of interest.

Also, small businesses create a feeling of accomplishment, fulfillment and pleasure that is created by working with the things one enjoys. Relationships too are about enjoyment and, at least in the beginning, require rather small investments to flourish. How do you find your way into your own niche?

3 ways to enter a niche or a relationship

Guillebeau lists three strategies to find your business idea and eventually escape 9 to 5 corporate life. In other words, to be a highly successful owner of a business of your passion. First they might appear to be basic and simplistic, but highlight the three essential steps.

First strategy is to dig deeper into customer expectations to uncover hidden needs. It can also mean fulfilling and exceeding customer needs that are inadequately served.  Often that’s about solving problems which big players in the market are too stiff to address. If you don’t catch all the eyes of the room like Brad Pitt, one can find a target person that does not even expect him to appear.

Second strategy is to make your customer a hero. By being a small business owner you have the flexibility and capability to offer dedicated services and product offerings to serve specific needs of a selected customer group. Again, these needs rarely appear into the radar of large corporations.

Finally, third strategy is to sell what people buy. And what is that people really want and buy? Our desires and consumption are more and more directed into two categories. Table below demonstrates what elements entrepreneur can offer to an under served market.

Love Stress
Money Conflict
Acceptance Hassle
Free-time Uncertainty

The table lists the same fundamentals what man and woman need from each other and what relationships build on. They are the elements why men and women fundamentally seek long-term relationships. Looking from the viewpoint of business, this blog pursues to provide more love and less stress and conflict at home. By applying the learnings at workplace one can perhaps boost career and score a larger paycheck.

Passion as a starting point

Like start-ups also relationships often begin on shared passion to common hobbies and interests. First relationships contain excitement and thrill. Same way an entrepreneur jumps into the challenges of business full of enthusiasm.

Initially the fulfillment concentrates on the “More” side of the table. In the beginning some of the elements on the “Less” side might remain as excitement covers the negatives.

Later relationships transform and serve to reduce stress, hassle and uncertainty in life. Don’t expect the conflicts to completely disappear though. As it goes in relationships and business, and as we will see later, smooth resolution of conflicts is just a great way to strengthen the partnership.

Another common aspect between relationships and small entrepreneurial businesses is that in the very beginning of the relationship the actions and required investments are usually relatively small. Usually it’s enough to open your mouth in a correct place. Later, a shoulder massage will yield good atmosphere for several days.

The key is that small steps and actions matter the most. The main component of success is to get started and grab yourself for action. That goes for both businesses and relationships.

(photo courtesy of amenic181 / freedigitalphotos.net)

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3 reasons why relationships exist

Purpose of relationships

Relationships build on three basic foundations.

“If you don’t know why, you can’t know how” – Simon Sinek, author of business bestseller Start with why, 2009.

Do you have a job description?

Traditional household job descriptions are transforming rapidly. More men consider cooking as their hobby as it not that long time ago used to be somewhat an obligation or even a duty of women. Changing the bulb or lawn mowing might remain chore of men. Although I have heard a woman telling how she likes cutting the grass on the backyard in the sunshine. Nevertheless you can hardly do it in the rain. Responsibilities and tasks of everyday life are traditionally shared, but very often debated about.

Fairly recent study by University of Washington even goes quite far with the results about what happens where the household work is divided equally between man and woman. Their results claim that sexual activity in equal circumstances is reduced.

Many would question the methods and validity of the study, but the results and the conclusions are intriguing. The authors of the study do not wish to jolt the equilibrium and alert wishful men about unhappy marital life, if the chores at home end up one-sidedly divided. To understand the meaning and foundation of the relationship, it might be useful to look how does a daily life look like.

While editing this text, I am sitting at the writing desk and simultaneously downloading holiday pictures to a memory stick. Meanwhile my spouse is preparing us a dinner. After the tasty meal I usually fill the dishwasher and clear out the kitchen. You know the story. These duties have developed over time.  Neither one of us is unaware what to do, I might forget a step or another in the process, tough. But I will be reminded.

To avoid quarrels about the roles I have spoken about our job descriptions with my partner. Literally. First I made up this concept and topic as a small joke, but it evolved into a serious discussion. Eventually it has reduced pressure, when both are aware what is expected in the household.

What kind of rationale do the roles in the relationships have? Do these foundations provide insight to why relationships are formed? To maneuver in often turbulent relationships, whether in business partnerships or in marriage, one needs to know which factors hold the relationship together. What are the driving forces behind relationships?

In their brick-thick textbook Strategic Marketing (2003) David Cravens and Nigel Piercy present a fundamental model of the foundation of every partnership. The foundation consists of three elements: opportunity to create additional value, gaps in resources and capabilities and turbulence and diversity of environment. They determine the emergence and strength of every partnership.

Relationship has to add value

One of the most fundamental reason for a partnership is the opportunity to create additional value. In the very end it’s all about  giving more than taking away. The business thinking is often neglecting partnerships as a way to create additional value. Through partnerships businesses can enter new markets, develop their market position or reduce cost base. Typically companies enter new markets for example by joint ventures or distribution partnerships.

For instance, by entering into a relationship man and woman can access reduced costs by consolidating living expenses. Men can enter a new market position by jumping out from a bachelor era to a family life. A position which women often look forward to. In private life marketplace around individuals is changing.

In late twenties and early thirties one can easily notice the increased amount of marriage and baby photos in Facebook. You or your friends with children meet other people in the same state of life. They have got similar stories to share and same problems to solve. By enabling adaptation to changed market conditions the relationship creates value by enjoyable social life.

Relationships support and complement

A partnership has a solid foundation when the partners have supporting and complementing functions and capabilities. This foundation is clear when we look at, for instance, the relationship between a manufacturer and a distributor. Product development and production are key business functions of the manufacturer. Distributor on the other hand has the logistic and sales capabilities that support manufacturer’s business.

In business competition and capabilities determine market roles. In relationship gender directs (or pushes) us to natural specialization. Wait a moment! Is it natural and gender specialization? Luckily, I have observed, it’s often the one who enjoys cooking, who can be found holding the scoop.

In not that modern times the differences in resources and capabilities were a highly important factor. They affected our genetic evolution during thousands of years. The caveman theory builds on these differences between genders. Reflect on your own relationship for a moment. In which areas are you stronger in your everyday life at home? How about your spouse, what is she most enthusiastic about ? This way you can start revealing the diversified capabilities you complement each other.

Today, many tasks are divided by the extent of enthusiasm for a daily chore. If cooking is a passion for my partner, I possess the skill and a will to change a broken bicycle tyre. Unfortunately there is no need to change the tubeonce or twice per day to have balanced amount of household activities.

Often my balance sheet carries big burden of short and long term debt. Flowers, serving the senses for beauty and scent, often make up the difference, more often I find myself ironing a high pile of clothing.

Relationship needs to smoothen your journey

Diversity and turbulence of the environment is the third foundation for business partnerships.When supply of components fail and delivery times lengthen, the manufacturer relies on the distributor that balances product availability. Turbulence of the marketplace is reduced and together manufacturer and distributor are stronger. There’s a clear need for strong partnership.

Marital relationships have the same function of smoothing the journey in life. The older you get the more you will seek for security and you tend to value stable family life. Relationships also provide support in the modern corporate life, where jobs are cut in the name of reorganizations and enhancements of competitiveness.

What can we learn from all the above? Three foundations are key drivers to establish a relationship and hold it together. By viewing the major decisions in life through the foundations one can avoid placing basic requirements in jeopardy. Relationships require value creation from both sides, supporting and complementing capabilities and reduction of external stress.

If the fundamentals are at risk so is the relationship. Flowers once a month will not do the job.

(photo courtesy of scottchan / freedigitalphotos.net)

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