Ask them what they want, then give them what they want

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away I was a young lawyer, and, to boot, the unhappiest lawyer in town.

By all appearances, I should have been like a kid in a candy shop back then. I had been a middling law student (truth be told, I am a far better writer and entrepreneur than I ever was a lawyer) but somehow I had landed one of the best post-graduation gigs of all my classmates.

I was working in the big city for the big firm making the big bucks.

And I also had the big-time blues.

Much later, I would become the small business columnist for USA TODAY, and the author of 17 books (including The Small Business Bible) and would get to team up with world-class businesses like I am here today with NETGEAR. But back then, what I didn’t anticipate, and what they didn’t teach us in law school, is that those big firms pay young lawyers so well for a reason. Long hours – crazy long –and jerk partners were the norm. So, although I seemingly had it made, I soon started to plan my escape.

And it was then that I learned one of the most important lessons a small business person can learn, and what I want to share with you today.

I went to see a SCORE counselor to get advice about starting my own law firm (SCORE offers free, confidential expert business advice) but couldn’t really figure out how to do it. Then she shared these immortal words:

Ask them what they want, then give them what they want.

In my case, that meant speaking with potential clients, finding out what they needed from a young lawyer and new law firm, and then giving them that. And it worked. I made a profit starting my very first month.

I am reminded of that story because I recently saw a great video about Dr. James Lyons, a doctor of chiropractic, who listened to his customers, and his staff, and his gut, and made a seemingly small, but actually quite significant, change in his business; one that positively affected his whole operation.

What change is that, you ask? He got a new Wi-Fi system, a much better one. The Orbi Pro.

NETGEAR Orbi ProThe thing is that, like most businesses, the Internet has changed the chiropractic business too. Dr. Lyons accesses medical records online, his team uses a variety of devises to review patient files from different areas of his office, they need to interact online with insurance companies, and clients expect a secure and fast Wi-Fi connection.

Given that Dr. Lyons’ previous system was both glitchy and weak, and given also the changing nature of his business, Dr. Lyons chose a Wi-Fi system that was perfect for his small business. The Orbi Pro was easy to set up and, according to Dr. Lyons, totally issue-free. It’s made a huge difference.

And that’s exactly why my old SCORE counselor’s advice was so prescient. Small business people can get so caught up in the day-to-day machinations of running their businesses that they can sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees.

But stopping, asking, listening, and acting can send an entrepreneur off in new, unexpected directions; directions that are sure to be both popular and valuable.

How do I know that?

Because if you ask them what they want, and then give them what they want, you are following a time-tested small business success recipe.

It is a key to small business success.

Want more keys? The check back here often. As I mentioned, NETGEAR and I have teamed up and we will be giving and sharing a lot more great small business ideas regularly.