My brother and I started a furniture business, Beaverwood Products, when we were young. We custom designed furniture for restaurants and lodges. We were both young and had no experience, just persistence. We had no idea we could actually fail!
Since our furniture style matched the design of waterbed frames of the day we thought we could call on the largest water bed chains in the area. We had our first appointment with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the largest chain in the Northwest. We put on our best suits, gathered our photos and samples, jumped in my brother’s 240Z and headed out. All in all the CEO liked what we did, but couldn’t justify the financials of buying from a custom shop when he could get similar products, albeit of lower quality, from a mass manufacturer. We could tell he was sincere, or at least convinced us he was, so we said our good-byes and thanked him for his time. As we were leaving, my brother turned to him and said, “Can we show you one more thing?”
Up until then we had focused our conversations on the couches, chairs, and coffee tables. This seemed logical given the nature of the products sold in a waterbed store. The CEO answered “sure.” My brother pulled out the photos of our dining room tables and chairs. We could see the CEO’s face light up. I ran to the car and grabbed our miniature version of the table set that was a perfect size for children. SOLD!
We just landed our first waterbed store chain for a customer — both the regular sized and children sized dinning room tables. Or rather, gaming tables. You see, my brother quickly realized that dining room tables would not be a perfect fit. However, he saw some pool tables in the store and quickly repositioned our dining tables as gaming tables. It worked!
It would have been easy for us to quit, walk away knowing we put our best foot forward and justifying why this would not be a good direction for our business. However, by taking a closer look at the situation, realizing that competing for the commodity products business was not a winning approach, my brother changed the rules. He found a product category that was not commodity — gaming products. He then changed the rules and found (or created) a pain point — the CEO had no quality gaming tables in his store. He then positioned one of our products to relieve the pain point.
To this day I can’t imagine how we fit so much furniture in the 240Z, but then we were in our early 20′s and didn’t know you couldn’t do these sorts of things. When faced with a clear mismatch of your solution with the customer problem, don’t quit. Step back, find a pain point, change the rules, and close the business.
Dano Ybarra is a leader, global executive, corporate warrior, serial entrepreneur, husband, father, and Internet pioneer. To learn more about Dano please visit www.danoybarra.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information visit his Beyond.com profile.