Working for someone else can totally suck.
The people in charge tell you what projects to work on. They determine how much money you make. They’ve got a point of view on just about every aspect of your daily work.
And if your boss isn’t quite the best leader in the world, she can have you running around doing all sorts of stuff that doesn’t make sense.
Frustrating, isn’t it? Especially if you want to do work that maximizes your talents and abilities.
But as a business owner, you don’t have these worries.
You’re in charge. You can run your business exactly the way you want to. And since you’re the boss, of course things work out the way they’re supposed to.
The truth is, most businesses don’t work this way. Actually, the ones that do operate with the business owner calling all the shots, don’t have a lot of success to report.
Successful entrepreneurs know their businesses do well because they’re not the boss. Here’s why.
The real boss of your business
A few years ago, my philosophy on gift-giving for Christmas was that everyone should get a book.
I’d think about each family member, what their interests were at the moment. And then I’d spend a day in the bookstore trying to find the perfect books (don’t worry, that wasn’t my only gift to them).
I was always quite pleased with myself for being so clever, and giving gifts I thought would help enrich the lives of my family members.
But it turns out, on more than one occasion those books I spent so much time selecting, never got read.
The reason why? Most people in my family aren’t readers. Unlike me, their idea of a lovely Saturday afternoon didn’t involve curling up with a good book.
And no matter how hard I tried to make them readers by giving them books, my plans didn’t work.
Just so you know, I’m a reformed gift giver now. I recognize that just because I have the power to give another person whatever I want, it doesn’t mean I should.
That’s because giving someone else a gift isn’t at all about me and what I want to give. It’s totally about the recipient.
And if I want to give gifts people will love, I need to focus on them. I need to take into account who they are, their lifestyles, and what they like. I also need to consider what I’ve heard them say they want, and frustrations they’ve expressed.
The good news is, my gift giving shenanigans didn’t ruin my relationship with my family. Thankfully they still love me, and like having me around.
But that’s not always the case when businesses do things based upon what they want to do. Instead of being heavily influenced by their customers.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get super excited about all the ideas they have. Product ideas, social media campaigns, and other ways to win new customers pop into their heads on a daily basis.
And so they rush to implement those ideas, because as the boss, they have the power to do so. And they “just know” their customers are going to love what they’ve cooked up.
Until they don’t.
Just like me with the books, business owners who do this make a crucial mistake. They give customers what they want them to have, instead of giving their customers what they want.
And unlike my family, when you give your customers stuff they don’t want, they don’t have to make a space for you at Christmas dinner.
When it comes to your business, yes you are in charge. You call the shots. And you have the power to decide what to do and not do.
But don’t mistake that level of responsibility, with being the boss of your business.
There’s someone with more power than you that you need to answer to: your customer. And as a result, your customer is the real boss of your business.
How to keep your boss happy
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton, Founder Walmart
Your customers have a lot of options to choose from to get their needs met. And if none of those options fancy them at the moment, they can simply choose to keep their money in their pockets and do what they’ve been doing.
As Peter Drucker, the father of modern day business management, noted:
“All the customer is interested in are his or her own values, wants, and reality.”
Your customers want what they want. They don’t care about the way you want to do things. Especially if it doesn’t suit them.
So if you want to build a business that thrives, you’ve got to give your customers a compelling reason to part with their money.
And to do that, you’ve got to be in tune with exactly what they need. And then you’ve got to give it to them. Over and over again.
Jay Abraham, author of Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, described the role of the entrepreneur this way:
“You must understand and appreciate exactly what your clients need when they do business with you – even if they are unable to articulate that exact result themselves. Once you know what final outcome they need, you lead them to that outcome – you become a trusted adviser who protects them. And they have reason to remain your client for a lifetime.”
A customer for life. Remember, that’s the prize smart entrepreneurs strive for.
The benefits of following your boss’ lead
When you put your customers in the drivers’ seat, all goes in the right direction. Whether they know it or not, they tell you what they like, or don’t like. How they like it. When they like it. And even where they like it.
They give you a road map for how to please them. A road map for how to delight them and turn them into raving fans.
And as a result, as long as you follow that roadmap, and couple it with your expertise, you’ll keep your customers happy.
Here are some of the specific benefits you’ll get from following your customers’ lead.
1. No more hide and seek
Ever struggle with how to find your ideal customers?
That’s one of the biggest frustrations I hear from entrepreneurs who are trying to build their businesses.
They just don’t know how to reach the customers they know they can help.
But when you let your customers guide you, they’ll give you clues for how to find them.
For instance, my mother loves crafts. She’s often on the hunt for little inexpensive items she can dress up to make her home look nice.
One of her favorite stores is the arts and crafts store Michael’s. And she also gets lots of great ideas from Pinterest.
So if my mother was my ideal customer, I wouldn’t try to get her attention by spending a lot of time on Facebook, blogs, or even SEO.
That would be a waste. Instead, I’d focus my online efforts on Pinterest, where she already hangs out when she’s on the hunt for ideas.
2. You learn a new language
A lot of times, once business owners find their ideal customers, they’re at a loss for what to say to them.
It’s kind of like being super excited to meet someone, but then having your mind turn to mush once you’re finally in their presence.
If you want to please the boss of your business, you’ve got to use the right words. You’ve got to speak her language.
You’ve got to know the words to say that make her pay attention. That make her take notice. You’ve got to say something that sparks her interest enough to make her want to talk to you more.
So how do you find those right magic words?
Listen to your customer of course. Listen to what she says. Notice the language she uses. Listen to how she talks about her problems, and the different solutions she’s tried to help solve those problems.
And then incorporate that language whenever you interact with her.
Do this often enough, and you’ll know what to say to get her excited. You’ll know what to say to make her laugh. You’ll know the things to say to ruffle her feathers. You’ll know what to say to make her think.
And most importantly, you’ll know what to say to move her to action.
3. You only create winners
Earlier I mentioned that my mom loved the arts and crafts store Michael’s. So for her birthday, some friends gave her a gift card to Michael’s. She was so excited.
Other friends gave her a bottle of her favorite perfume, she’d just run out of. Needless to say, that gift delighted her as well.
These friends scored big with their gifts for my mom because they knew in advance she would love them.
She had shared her love for these items through conversations and other interactions they’d had over the years.
When you listen to your customers, they’ll tell you exactly what problem they need solved. And if you solve that problem with your products, they’ll be super happy.
As a result, you’ll never have to worry about investing resources in products your customers don’t want.
It’s time to give up the boss’ chair
You won’t be sorry you did.
Not only will you give your business a better chance at succeeding, but it’ll make your life easier as an entrepreneur as well.
You won’t have to guess about what things to do. You won’t have to waste resources on ideas that won’t work. And you won’t have to do things that don’t make sense.
Because when you take the direction you get from your boss, and combine it with your expertise, everyone wins.
Your customers get what they want. Your business gets customers that love them. And you get to live the good life, while getting paid to change the world.
Now that’s a scenario that totally doesn’t suck.