A really important question you should be asking


photo by Harpersbizarre 

A few months ago I wrote about a fun story that Verne Milot shared with me on the importance of facing the tiger.  Verne is the owner of a coaching firm called Growth Associates in St. Catherine’s Canada (near Niagra) and a fellow coach in the PBCA.

Anyway, I recently had a chance to hear another great story from Verne – this time a case study about one of his clients and I thought he did a beautiful job illustrating a common problem business owners face and the innate value that a business coach can bring you.

The client in this case study owned a horse stable operation and although they were doing okay, they wanted to grow their revenue substantially and they were ready to try something different.  So they ended up getting in touch with Verne and he agreed to help them out.

What business are you in?

One of the first things Verne did after he got a chance to talk with the owners a bit was to ask them a difficult question.  (It doesn’t sound difficult, but it can be…wait and see).

What business are you in?

Of course the initial answer was easy – they were in the horse business.  ‘We sell horses, we train horses, we offer horseback riding lessons, we do camps, birthday parties, trail rides and we stable other peoples horses.’  They were in the horse business.

So how do you make money?

This was a more difficult question, but with some help reviewing the financials over the last couple of years and some pointed discussion, they finally ended up with a clean report / bar chart that broke down where their revenue came from.  Even though they offered 10 – 12 different products, the vast majority of the revenue came from just 2 products – horseback riding lessons and trail rides.

What business are you in?

So the question came up again – What business are you in?  The answer this time took a little more thought.

“I guess we’re in the Horseback riding and lessons business.”

Verne’s response – “That’s interesting, so who are your clients for the riding and lessons?” 

This time the answer was faster, no research needed.  It turns out that most of the riders and lessons were for 8 – 12 year old girls.  These were primarily girls that didn’t really like sports but really enjoyed the idea of hanging out with other girls in a non-competitive environment, gaining confidence and self esteem and learning a challenging but fun new skill. 

What business are you in?

The third time’s a charm.  They were in the business of teaching and training 8 – 12 year old girls confidence and self-esteem, which when you think about it is an awfully valuable and important business to be in.

However, the problem was that all of the marketing they had (what little there was) didn’t reflect this business at all, it reflected a horse stable with a whole menu of options and prices but no messages at all about their primary target market or the benefits they delivered. 

As you might guess, the marketing wasn’t very effective, which was a problem.

The answer?  Develop a website and a new brochure and flyers that specifically addressed the benefits of confidence and self-esteem that girls could get from this business…oh and that business just happened to involve horses as well.

It can be really easy to lose sight of what makes you different and what benefits you really deliver, so take the time (and perhaps hire a local business coach ) to answer the always important question:  “What business are you in?”.

I’d love to hear what business you are actually in – share your thoughts below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach