Josephine was an overachieving entrepreneur, but unless you knew her, she just appeared to be an average lady living in Ohio and chasing the American Dream. Her best friends knew her better as ‘Jo’. And if there was a claim to fame for Jo, it was her strong belief in the value of expert advice.
Whenever she had a complex medical issue, she went to see a doctor. Whenever she had a complex legal issue, she went to see a lawyer. Whenever she had a big question about taxes and investments, she would walk over to the bank and speak to an advisor. Jo felt that good advice was worth paying for, and it always baffled her why so few people hired professionals.
7 years ago, Jo got involved in the plumbing business by joining forces with three friends and acquiring a few small shops. After some months of hard work on the ground, Jo made a public announcement to her friends and family that her new plumbing services was open for business. She was very proud of what she felt were industry-defying points of differentiation.
- The quality of her pipes. While others tried to cut corners to save money, Jo understood the importance of using high-performance material that wouldn’t burst in case of extreme pressure from floods.
- Her diverse services offered. Jo would build and fix anything plumbing-related. Her services weren’t limited to just bathrooms and kitchens, she could work on garden fixtures and even swimming pools too. She was able to customize her services based on what the client needed.
In spite of the high quality of pipes and diverse offerings, years went by and business just was not going up. The dream of growing her client base just wasn’t happening. Frustrated, Jo took some time to think. She was an expert in her field of plumbing. She used the best materials, had close to zero customers who asked for a refund, and was able to do anything that her clients asked her to. She spent countless hours offering advice over the phone, and also never charged for showing up to inspect on an issue unless the job itself was executed. All of her employees did the same, and yet their client base was not growing.
It then struck Jo that she perhaps, and just perhaps, she was not an expert in her field. She was down and began to express her disillusionment with her business every time she met up with friends. One day, she met up with an old friend for an early breakfast and they spoke for hours. This was someone not from the plumbing industry, but someone with a reputation for galvanizing businesses. After talking with him, it occurred to her:
- The average person never understood the quality of a pipe. Some of them might not even have cared as long as they did what they were supposed to do.
- The average person also didn’t understand all the customization that Jo’s plumbing business offered.
And because of that, Jo’s plumbing business was really no different from any other plumbing business in Ohio. What had appeared important to Jo herself was not a big differentiating factor from a client’s point of view. Slowing down to think again, she realized that most people who had come to her had done so because they trusted that she would do a good job, or enjoyed having her to help because of her gregarious personality. It had little to do with the quality of her pipes and the number of services she offered.
While long overdue, it was better late than never and Jo decided it was time to search for a professional who could develop momentum behind the trust she had from some, the liking she had from others, and making use of that to build a brand…
By Alan Chu