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Satisfy the customer not yourself

Many people aspire to set up their own business and become self-employed because, among other benefits, self-employment offers one unlimited freedom to do whatever they want with their enterprise without anyone (i.e. a boss) stopping them.

Because of this freedom, many entrepreneurs end up building businesses customised to their personal tastes and preferences with little regard to what is best for the business.

For example, if one is choosing a colour of paint for their business premises and their favourite colour is pink, they will choose pink paint even if their business deals in agricultural produce (in which case green paint would have been more suitable).

If the business owner has a favourite radio or television station, they will air all their adverts on that station even if that particular station is not listened to by the audience the advert is targeting.

Even their choice of business name, business location - online or brick-and-mortar, brand colours, line of products/services to sell, pricing, flavours and spices (for those dealing in foods and drinks), etc., are all informed by what the business owner likes and what makes him/her feel good. This is unwise.

If you have a business, you should be careful not to customise it to your personal tastes and preferences because:

1. Customers will not buy what you prefer but rather what they prefer

2. Making money through profit, not making you happy, is the primary objective of entrepreneurship

When I started my mandazi business, I made the mandazi in three different shapes - circular, triangular and rectangular. And in a pack of three mandazi, which I sold for Shs 500, I would place one of each shape. I loved how the mandazi pack looked with the three shapes, and I imagined the customers too would love the variety.

As the demand for the mandazi increased (and with it the need to produce more mandazi per day), I found myself pressed to think of ways to make the production faster. Among the things I considered was making all the mandazi in one shape - rectangular. Having one shape would greatly reduce the time it took to slice the dough and pack the mandazi.

However, since we were until that point, selling our mandazi in three different shapes, I thought it prudent to ask some of our customers how they felt about the variety of the shapes, and if they would continue buying from us even after we stopped the variety of the shapes. My findings surprised me.

My survey revealed that despite my personal attachment to the variety in shapes of the mandazi, none of our customers was buying our mandazi because of the variety of the shapes. One of the customers even told me she had never realised that the mandazi were in different shapes. All that the surveyed customers were interested in was the taste of the mandazi, regardless of shape.

I realised that the money I spent buying the moulds for the different shapes and the energy and time we spent all along cutting out the different shapes from the dough and counting the mandazi to ensure we had enough of each shape were all simply meaningless because the shape of the mandazi meant nothing to the customers.

Indeed, as an entrepreneur, you will not have a boss telling you what to do and what not to do. But, instead of a boss, you [will] have a king—the customer—whose interests, not yours, should be your primary aim to satisfy.

The author is a communications expert and entrepreneur

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