Explorations in Business - Part 4 of ?

Life. Life is a crazy and complex endeavor.


I've bogged down on the business. There are a few reasons.

One, I'm already doing a ton of other things, and then my township decided that they wanted to try to shut down the farm that I get goat milk from, so I decided to take up that fight on top of everything else. Here's an article on that: http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2019/05/fighting-local-government-corruption.html

Two, my first foray fell flat. I had about a dozen people look at the video on my website: MeditateWithJeff.com. Three people filled in part of the survey. One person left their contact info, and then they didn't respond when I contacted them. I was hoping to at least talk to one person through that process and then take the next step. It was a little disheartening. But alas, that's not the way the cookie crumbled.

But I don't think those are the really real reasons. When that first foray failed it wasn't the disheartening aspect that gave me hesitation, it was the complexity. Anxiety is our primary state. In any new environment the animal first feels anxiety. There is behavioral inhibition, it stops, looks around, tries to orient itself. This is the same thing that happens when things don't work the way we expect. We realize that we don't really know where we are, the situation is too complex, we are anxious, we stop and look around and try to get our bearings. That's what happened to me.

What does moving on from that look like? The animal slowly starts exploring its new environment, as it learns more it becomes less anxious and less inhibited, and is free to explore more. So, I need to stop stopping and start exploring. A lack of anxiety is learned. (In Napoleon Bonaparte's memoirs he said that the reason for all of his success was that he never hesitated. I read that section many times when I came across it hoping for more insight. There wasn't.)

I've been reading "The Heart of Doing Business" by Masatoshi Ito. He built the second largest retail company in the world and owns things like 7-Eleven. He has an interesting story, that's an understatement, and a lot of perspectives that I like in that book. One in particular has been turning over in my mind.

I've been thinking about the business process as having these three key points: product/market fit, distribution, recruiting and training. (Since I'm not working on employees, partners, or investors at the moment I don't need to worry about the last one.) I got this basic framework from Dane Maxwell and Sam Ovens, who are both successful entrepreneurs that also coach other entrepreneurs.

I don't think Masatoshi Ito would be particularly opposed to that view, but he presents the idea of business in a different way. Here's one sentence from his book.

- - - - - - -

First, they have to become your customer, next you have to win their satisfaction, and finally they must become part of your regular clientele.

- - - - - - -

Instead of trying to create something to fit the market, which means I have to first try to figure out what the market wants, maybe I should try to get one person to take a risk on my product/service. Then, I will try to satisfy them. If I do, great, I will try to do it again. If not, then I need to change.

Another business guy that I've followed is Mike Dillard. I remember him saying something to the effect that there is no definitely correct way to build a business, only definitely wrong ways.

Also, Matt, the founder of FounderCo told me that he thinks it would make sense to pursue doing one-on-one consultations to start with while I'm working out how to present my ideas and develop a program. I came to the same conclusion as well. I just don't feel right with trying to make a series of videos yet, I want to work it out one-on-one with individuals first. I like that personal connection and engagement anyway. I have a process that works for me, I still need to learn how to transfer that practice to others.

Essentially, I need to launch personal meditation consultations for chronic pain through video chat as a minimally viable product. Then, I will be trying to sell this. To sell it I need to do experiments to see how to get it out into the world. The success or failure of that endeavor will be good market feedback. The feedback from customers will also be invaluable in my adjustments to my presentation of the material. So, product development and market research will both be done through distribution, they won't really be separate things. It's just 1) get a customer 2) satisfy them.

This brings us to pricing. Oh, dreaded pricing! How I do loathe thee. This advice has been all over the place, and I don't really trust myself in this area (nor do I trust others). I've had people tell me to release a series of instructional videos for only a few dollars each. I've had people tell me to have videos for a few hundred dollars a piece. Sam Ovens recommends charging people two-thousand dollars a month. I've had people tell me to charge something cheap, like 500 dollars per hour, lol.

Where I grew up there was this little community in the woods. There was one gas station and several campgrounds. People bartered quite a bit in that community. There were people with skills across many areas of practical life, such as construction and mechanics. (Oddly enough, I didn't pick up any of those skills. I helped with a lot of projects, but I was happy to provide the manual labor aspect and instead of focusing on developing those skills I focused on learning through reading at that point in my life.)

Growing up this way has warped my perspective on pricing in comparison to a lot of the country. I've traveled around the country a fair amount, to areas poorer than the area I grew up and to areas significantly wealthier. I become uncomfortable charging people the fees that I should. Then, the activity isn't financially viable, and that hinders it. I need to stop doing that.

I recently started leading creative writing groups for a homeschool network. It's great, a ton of fun. And, it's incredibly valuable for both the students and the parents. I needed to figure out how much to charge. I thought ten dollars per student per class sounded reasonable. I know I price everything too low so I decided that I should start doubling how much I feel like charging. But, I couldn't fully talk myself into it, so I settled with myself at 15 dollars per student per class. Since it's a group it can be a decent amount. But, the point is, I tend to price things too low to be viable.

I think 100 dollars per hour would be reasonable for these consultations. But, I already know that if I do that then the income is just going to be eaten by business expenses that I'm not fully aware of yet. I'm worried that even doubling it to 200 dollars per hour won't actually leave me enough money to be able to advertise and market in a way that will allow the business to get off the ground. In this very moment I don't feel like I can make this decision. Nevertheless, I will. 200 dollars per hour it is. (Plus, I don't think a cheap price will even work for this because it's a difficult process that requires commitment. If people are just trying it because it's cheap then they won't persist. If 200 dollars doesn't work then I should probably raise the price instead of lowering it.)

See, that seems insanely expensive to me. But I've met a lot of people that would not think that's anything particularly special. I remember staying with a couple in Annapolis, Maryland a number of years ago when I attended a philosophy seminar at St. John's College. I had never been to that area. I asked how much the houses in the area cost. I was expecting a couple hundred thousand dollars. They didn't seem special. I was surprised to find out that they had bought the only house in a couple blocks that was less than a million dollars, the cheap fixer upper was 700,000 dollars. They thought it was a normal price.

Okay, the next step is that I have to remake and relaunch the website completely, and gear it towards providing this service. Slow progress is still progress. (I feel like a good tagline would be appropriate here, and "Slow progress is still progress." was not intended to be that because it doesn't sound very inspiring. But hey, maybe. In Henry Ford's autobiography he had made a slogan, "Stand up, and stand out!" That's much more inspiring, but it doesn't feel quite right at the moment.)

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You can find more of what I'm doing at http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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