Some Businesses Succeed, Some Businesses Fail, Ever Wonder Why?

I read this article quite some time ago, and loved it. Then I misplaced it and forgot about it.

Well, I found it again when I was rooting around in some old files, and I wanted to share it with you. Makes a lot of sense and has a nice bit of humor too.
Push or Pull? By Michael Knowles

It’s the same old tune.

I sat there listening to a man with good ideas who was nevertheless stuck trying to get them to market. His short-cropped, grizzly grey hair and the lines on his face told a dozen stories about his trials and tribulations.

“You know why most businesses fail?” Ron said. He didn’t wait for my answer. “Undercapitalization. They can’t get enough money together to kick things off and hang in there until they get enough customers.”

I nodded. “Sure. I’ve heard that one a hundred times. Ever wonder why?”

Ron blinked. “Well, I always thought it was about who you know. If you don’t have the connections you might as well forget it.”

“If that’s so, then why was New Coke such a failure? Coca-Cola certainly didn’t have a capitalization problem. And they knew plenty of people.”

“Yeah, but that’s Coca-Cola,” Ron said. “I’m talking about the small businesses. We don’t get that kind of edge.”

“Ron,” I said, “You have all the edge you need. But the reason you aren’t getting the attention you want is simple.”

Ron sat back and crossed his arms. “All right, my friend. Tell me what I need.”

I smiled. “What you need, Ron, is a new pair of eyeballs.”


“You keep looking at what you do through the same eyes. Your eyes. What if you could see your product the way your potential customers will see it?”

“Yeah, sure,” Ron snorted. “Just hand me that crystal ball.

“Don’t need one,” I said. “Because I’ve got something better.”

Push Vs. Pull

Ron was making the same mistake many of us make. He kept pushing his own vision of his value out into the world and expected others to get it. When they didn’t, he blamed everything but the real culprit.

Himself, of course.

In companies from high-tech to the neighborhood grocery, the ones who deeply understand their market and the people they serve are the ones who survive and thrive. You must take the time to understand what you do best and then learn to perceive your unique value the way your ideal customers do.

It’s hard work that requires self-knowledge, imagination, and some research. The good news is that the results enable you to do the kind of outreach that brings customers to you.

Here are four suggestions for getting started:

Understand and write down what you do best. There is nothing you can do that’s more important that identifying those things you do consistently well. If you haven’t done this sort of personal inventory before, you’d best get to it before stepping too far out into the business world.

Think about the kinds of problems to which you’re naturally attracted. Follow them back to the people who have those problems, and you’re on the road to meeting your ideal customer. Describe the person who has the sort of problems you’re able to solve, right down to what they dream about at night.

Write a little story about the ideal customer using your product or service. Be imaginative, but ground the story in reality. Put it into a third-person narrative and see what comes out.

Find out where your ideal customers congregate, what they read, and what they listen to. Become familiar with those venues and participate in them yourself. Go out there with an open mind seeking information about their problems, and you’ll find yourself meeting potential customers in due course.

Relationships Begin with Your Interest in Others

In the end, the relationships you build with your ideal customers begin with your honest, heartfelt interest in their problems. People will know when you are driven soley by the quest for money.

Sure, we all need to earn a living, but when we allow ourselves to be driven by the need to feed, so to speak, we give off an aura of self-absorption that sends a negative message to the world.

But if you focus on really seeing what your customers want from you and deliver that as completely and as positively as you can, the money will take care of itself.

Isn’t that right, Ron?

Michael Knowles, co-author of The Entrepreneur’s Concept Assessment Toolbook (available atĀ helps businesses take what they do best and focus it on success.

A Principal in One Straight Line LLC, Michael has over 25 years of experience helping companies create communication strategies help them engage customers, employees, investors, outsourcing partners, and the community.

Michael can be reached at

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