FOR YOUR BUSINESS
AS I SHARED in my March Connection column
(“Spare-time side moves”), you may have an
exciting idea, one that would make a great side
business, and you are ready to execute it. So how,
exactly, do you get started? Most people get hung
up on the transition from vision to reality.
However, you can take smart strategic actions to
make amazing progress quickly.
Here are four strategies you can use immediately to execute your great idea.
Know what you can do on your own (or
within your network). Billionaire serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban says that sweat equity is the
best equity. In other words, when you start, it is
often smarter and cheaper to do some late nights
and early mornings rather than pay someone else.
Alternatively, who in your network can help you
out? Social media, personal connections and other
resources are priceless.
Figure out your runway. How many resources
do you have to begin? Your runway is how many
days, weeks or months your new business will be
able to continue based on actual resources at hand.
This isn’t the time to be optimistic; as one entrepreneur joked, assume it will take twice as long
and cost three times as much as you think. Your
runway is partly determined by your own skills
and your network, as the more you spend on help,
the shorter your runway.
Describe your ideal customer. Who will use
your product or service? Saying “everyone”
sounds ambitious, but it is a trap: Be as specific
as possible. Your messaging, from the business
website to the business cards, should be built to
attract this ideal customer. And if you know your
customers, you can figure out where and how to
Create milestones from little to big. Where
do you want your business to be a year from now?
Start with your final big vision, then work backward. It could be a simple milestone, like “Have
five paid customers by day 30.” By having the
broad idea set, you can determine the steps
between here and there. By having regular, achievable milestones, you’ll be able to make bite-sized,
steady progress while minimizing frustration. C
BY MINDY CHARSKI
ASKING CUSTOMERS if they’re happy
with your business and what you sell isn’t
easy, but responses to customer satisfaction
surveys can both illuminate the good and
reveal areas that need attention.
“Customer feedback is critical to help
an organization understand the top drivers
of loyalty, repurchase and trial,” says Merril
Mascarenhas, managing partner of the
Canadian research and strategy consulting
firm Arcus Consulting Group (arcusgroup.
ca) in Toronto. Likewise, the Costco mem-
ber says, “It can help improve products and
services in areas that matter most to cus-
tomers and prospects.”
Customer satisfaction surveys should
respect a user’s time—ideally taking less
than seven minutes to fill out—and should
include only questions that correspond with
your company’s objectives and that will
produce actionable feedback, says Kalinda
Fisher, founder of Advocate Market
consumer market research firm in Franklin,
Tennessee. “If you can’t directly tie a ques-
tion to something you can do to improve the
processes, products or service, don’t ask it.”
She greenlights these examples: “Rate
how you feel about the quality of services”
and “Which of the following services do you
To boost participation in your survey,
consider offering incentives like discounts
or having employees personally ask custom-
ers they know to help out. “Be upfront let-
ting [customers] know their opinion mat-
ters and having them respond is imperative
to help you better serve their needs in the
future,” Fisher says.
Subsequently speaking with customers
one-on-one or in focus groups can help you
better understand your survey’s results. They
can be respondents who shared their names
or simply a group of willing customers. “It
is at those types of meetings you can come
to fully comprehend the emotion behind the
answers and use that to strengthen the relationship to the customer,” Fisher says.
Next, take action. Customers want to
see evidence their feedback is valued and
implemented quickly, says Mascarenhas,
who notes one strategy is to swiftly assign
ownership of specific tasks to an individual
Though change can often be hard for
organizations to embrace, the voice of the
customer can be powerful. Mascarenhas
says, “Employees are more likely to accept
a direction for change if they understand
why customers are suggesting a change.” C
Dallas-based freelancer and Costco member
Mindy Charski (
mindycharski.com) specializes in business journalism.
Damon Brown is the
author of the Bite-Sized
available at Costco).
Your side business
in four steps