This is a guest posting from Antony Aiwada, CEO of StartLeap
How a fifth grader’s business insight could have saved a tycoon 10's of millions of dollars.
I recently volunteered to teach my son’s fifth grade class a class on entrepreneurship entitled – Bizworld. The class is the brainchild of Tim Draper – a partner with DFJ. Tim came up with the idea to teach his daughter’s class about entrepreneurship. Later, he founded Bizworld.org, as he realized that most schools do an OK job teaching kids about math and sciences but fall short on teaching the basics of business and entrepreneurship. I think this a laudable objective – as I believe entrepreneurial skills will become increasingly valuable in the future – particularly as traditional math and science skills become commodities...
In a typical Bizworld class, a class is divided into competing teams – startups - who vie to achieve the highest valuation. Every team has to go through the lifecycle of a startup – including creating a product, raising money, coming up with a marketing campaign and selling the product.
Not only was Bizworld great fun for the fifth graders, they also gained great business insights. This realization hit me as my kids and I were visiting a local family theme park – Bonfante Gardens. The park was created by a local celebrity – Michael Bonfante who sold his supermarket chain and spent 20 years and $100M creating the theme park. My kids and I were strolling down the park on a beautiful Saturday. I was surprised to find the park largely empty. Where were the lines? Where were the crowds?
Looking at my bored kids, I asked my younger son: “Don’t you like Bonfante Gardens?” “It’s OK” I continued: ”what about the rides in this beautiful landscape? You know Mr. Bonfante had to transplant 10,000 trees to create this beautiful place.” My son concluded: “I like it 10% as much as Great America” – a local cheesy theme park with stomach turning wild rides.
My older son – the fifth grader - chimed in: “Perhaps Mr. Bonfante should have attended a BizWorld Class. He would have realized who the customer really is and what they really want. The real customer is us – the kids!” Wow, now that is a statement coming from a fifth grader telling a tycoon how to run a business.
A key lesson my son and his classmates learned powerfully in Bizwold is the importance of understanding who the customer is and focusing on their needs. While many of the bizworld teams focused on creating – what they thought were great products - and sophisticated commercials. The winning team, created simple but colorful products, and their commercial - a raunchy/slapstick commercial - was a great hit with the customers - 2nd graders.
In other words, had Mr. Bonfante focused on understanding who the customer is and what their needs are, he would have realized that:
1) the real customers are the kids and not the parents
2) kids do not care about 10s of millions of dollars spent on transplanting trees
3) Parents will not take their kids to a park that their kids perceive as boring!
Now this is a great lesson for all entrepreneurs young and old.
Most companies introducing a new product – including several I have worked with - have a vague idea as to who the customer really is – particularly in the enterprise. This is often the case in a Sales and Marketing 2.0 environment where most of the sales are likely to happen on the web with little or no human contact. Yet unless the customer(s) are well defined and their needs are clearly understood, sales and marketing efforts are unlikely to succeed.
Part II of this article will discuss “How to get into the customer’s head in enterprise 2.0”.
By Antony Awaidal. Antony is the CEO of StartLeap which helps companies innovate in their sales and marketing and jumpstart their sales.