I had one scheduled call for monday evening 20:00 hrs. It was great to be confirmed that some people just love to talk about their business. I was hesitant to do the call because it was late in the evening. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would want to spend his evening talking to a stranger. But after reminding myself how very friendly the guy sounded the first time I called him, and realising he proposed the time himself, I just called him. And I’m glad I did. The conversation was great, we had quite a few laughs, and it lasted 82 minutes.
Learning about the market in general
I told him the call was to learn about his business and the problems he experienced running it. On the way I learned a lot about the market in general as well. Afterwards, I noticed a lot of my questions were about running a security business itself, and I was constantly introduced to new stuff such as security plans, certification and quoting. All new for me, so talking about it took a lot of time. But also showed my genuine interest and perhaps even made me more vulnerable as well. I noticed the same in a lot of earlier calls, and I think it’s normal when starting in a new market. I guess it’s a good idea to make sure you have a good understanding of the market before deep diving into the pains.
During the call I made notes about everything I learned. I paid extra attention to the sound of his voice. Would it tremble or have a bit more energy? Twice I thought I stepped on something painful. A few times he wrote security plans (of 2-3 hours) after which the customer would bail out. Time spent for nothing. He also came up with his own solution: not doing any work until he got his first pre-payment. That made sense. Another pain was about customers not understanding or agreeing on his price quotes. He would constantly have to explain how his quality results in a higher price. The biggest pain, impossible to ignore, was about competition from big companies who would sell cheap security systems door-to-door with free installation only charging a monthly fee. In a few years customers would pay double for a less quality setup.
At the moment I was unable to price anchor the pains on the spot. As this was my first call, I told myself to relax and learn step-by-step, not stressing myself to complete all Idea Extraction steps and that way ruining the call as a whole.
In the end I tried going into some smaller frustrations and found out most unpleasant tasks like administration where outsourced to his wife. It would be interesting to talk to her as well some other time. By then, it was 21:20 already and I didn’t want to push it any further.
An unbelievable call. Although I didn’t manage to quantify the pains, I felt great after doing the call. In the end I asked him how he felt about it. He told me he enjoyed talking about his business. I learned so much about the market and his business, but most importantly, I learned people were happy to talk with me about it.
Show up on time for your meetings
On thursday I had a face-to-face meeting planned. Unfortunately I made the mistake to not show up on time. I said I would arrive around 17:00-17:30 and I was there at 17:25. My bad. The guy already left, as it was great weather. Can’t blame him. It reminded me I’m asking people a favor and I need to be more stricter myself about setting a single starting time and make sure I arrive exactly on time. Also it’s a good practise to call before you go there to confirm you are coming.
In the morning I did some calls and made new appointments for next week. In the afternoon I had my first face-to-face meeting with a very excited business man who on the phone already tried to convince me of some of his own brilliant new App ideas. Someone eager to talk to me.
We started off going into his business. I learned a lot about his daily schedule, and how he delegates most work to his colleagues in the morning. Afterwards he is doing new customer acquisition and creating the plans and drawings for existing quotes. I wasn’t able to get into any pain, as it seemed he had everything working for himself.
So I asked: what’s the one thing that’s keeping you from growing your business? He said “I don’t work on making my security installation business more efficient. That’s small return on investment. The business is running this way for years, and it’s running fine. Instead, I’m constantly looking for other products and services I can cross sell my existing customers.” And I got a small tour around the building. One after another ‘invention’ was showcased. This guy was super excited to show me all of it.
No pain found. In the end I learned about a security company, and I learned where a multi-entrepreneur is looking for leverage. Let’s see how that compares to other small business companies.