How to be happy in business: Reach for the “HOORAY!” zone

by Gary Hewett on January 16, 2012

I love it when an idea is presented simply.

One of the challenges for startups and small businesses–especially service-oriented businesses–is in defining what they do concisely and in terms that new customers can understand. This is essential to taking businesses out of the grind of competition and into the “Hooray!” zone.

Ask yourself: Do you want to compete for customers who are already familiar with what you do because they’re already purchasing services from your competitors, or do you want to open up new markets?

Do you see “compete with the other guy” in the diagram above? No. There is a reason for that.

If you don’t have something that you can do better than your competitor, you’re going to lose that fight. Why compete? Define what your business can do better or differently and build it into your unique niche so you don’t have to compete. Look at the diagram: Identify your niche, focus on it, learn to say “no” to things that you can’t do better than the other guy.

If you’ve already got a niche, great. Maybe you’re complementary to your old “competitors”; maybe you’re completely unrelated. Maybe you’re so far ahead of them that there is no competition. Whatever the reality, don’t compete. When others seek to compete with you, make sure you’ve working closely with your customer base, because people prefer to do business with brands that they know, like and trust. This is particularly true in service industries.

Why do you like your hairdresser, dentist or auto mechanic? They do things right for you. Are they the cheapest? Are they the closest? Maybe. If a cheaper or closer alternative came along, would you automatically switch? If you’re like me, it would take some powerful persuasion. (My dentist caters to cowards; I’d travel from another city to see him.)

Now, looking at your niche, can you be paid to do what you do well and want to do? Is this payment enough to keep you afloat and happy? Awesome, you don’t need to listen to me :) If not, it’s time for that awkward learning process of figuring out how to adapt and optimize how you do things. In technical writing, this is similar to what we call “Killing Your Darlings”–the more emotionally invested you are in a part of a process (or a bit of wording, in the tech writing case), the more willing you have to be to let it go. If you can’t, you’re putting your own attachment above the needs of your customers. (This isn’t an impossible scenario to work around and sometimes you do need to work around it to preserve the essence of your business, but it requires heavier strategizing and involves more risk.)

Don’t forget that you have business needs, though! Remember, you want to be paid to do what you want to do and do well. You’re looking for that “Hooray!” zone. If what you want to do isn’t keeping you afloat, adapt it to respond to customer feedback. See if you can change how you do things. This is where monetization comes in: When you do [x], you get [y] amount of revenue. Keep tweaking and replacing bits of your process until [y] is enough to justify the effort of [x].

The one thing that’s missing from this diagram is Getting the Word Out. One could argue that it’s part of monetization, but once something works for you, scaling your business adjusts how all of those circles interact. Your marketing and social media campaigns need to work with your “Hooray!” zone. That’s the next step. Are you ready for it?


Don’t let the bears eat your dinner.

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