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Rethinking About Businesses

For a considerable duration, my role within the company primarily revolved around resolving immediate crises. It has been quite a while since I seriously reflected on business matters.

The initial discussion occurred last Thursday, a day when the majority of the team was operating remotely. I had the opportunity to delve into the company's business strategies with two pivotal team members.

We began the dialogue with my intention to develop products that create value. The preliminary question we addressed was, "Who are these products designed for?"

I attempted to measure the value through
  1. The volume of users utilizing our digital product.
  2. The number of businesses employing our B2B solution.
However, these benchmarks might be too broad, requiring further specificity for effective execution. Worse, they don't adequately answer the question of "Who". Vinnie suggested that we should focus on the needs of the ultimate customers.

For Vinnie, expenditure on children and elderly people are the two areas where she would never skimp. Being an Asian working mother, she might reduce her spending on food & beverages and other accessories during a financial downturn, but she would never cut back on expenditures for her son or older family members. If her behaviour represents a typical target consumer, then her needs might align with those of most families.

With her experience in asset management, Vinnie also provided her insights on potential target businesses.
  • Owners of physical assets. For one, these assets can be more recognizable to potential customers due to their strong branding. Furthermore, they might have a longer business life than many SMEs, potentially bringing more long-term value. Consider the tourism sector; attractions or hotels, being physical assets with a solid presence, are better target customers than travel agencies.
  • Businesses that show greater resilience and higher profit margins might be a better focus. She compared two of our clients - a tuition centre serving several hundred students, and an online retailer with thousands of customers in Singapore. The tuition centre owner, even with fewer clients, has a higher profit margin than the online retailer. 
While I found the overall thought process solid, there are some practical issues with these target groups.

  • For owners of physical assets, their decision-making process is typically prolonged, and they may lack an accurate understanding of digital solutions. The features they request may be more about "political interest" than actual usefulness from a customer standpoint.
  • Although some services may boast high profit margins, the amount they're willing to invest in technology might be minimal. We've previously developed a school management solution for the tuition industry, which theoretically has high profit margins. However, at the end of the day, we could only charge one dollar per student per month for our SaaS solution. This suggests that a high profit margin doesn't necessarily equate to higher investment in tech solutions.

Eric, another team member with experience in running businesses, shared his view that: We need to design a product that benefits three parties in order to sustain and grow the business from a business model standpoint. The way we approach the customer when addressing a shared problem is also significant. If we always communicate from an "I" perspective, the customer might not value it. However, if we begin the conversation from the customer's viewpoint, things may progress more quickly. For instance, if you politely request to pass in an aeroplane aisle, the person in front may or may not oblige as they're doing you a favour. But if you warn them about the hot beverage you're carrying, they'll react faster as it's in their best interest to do so.

Though our conversation was brief, it significantly expanded my perspective. I've begun to reflect more on the business, with several initial considerations:

Determining "Who" we're serving as end users.

Identifying “Who” we’re catering to as businesses. 

Understanding "What" the business's current and future primary focus areas.

This is merely the beginning; I intend to delve deeper and contemplate further on this topic. Note: Some expressions have been adjusted by ChatGPT to enhance clarity.


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