Post by Kristy Straka, contributing Women On Business writer
I have been an entrepreneur for over 25 years. I didn’t know my father until I turned 18 years old, but once I met him, I really understood the meaning of blood is thicker than water. I realized why I was always thinking of ways to do things differently than my family, and why I didn’t fit into the box that I was molded to fit into.
I don’t know if my father ever worked for anyone or ever marketed anything that he didn’t produce himself. He was and still is, always, on the lookout for unique marketing and sales opportunities. At the current age of 77, he still works fulltime because he is a born salesman. I truly believe that his life would end if he couldn’t continue to create. His mind is full of ideas and products that he still wants to develop. He has the diligent heart and spirit of an entrepreneur that should never die.
I have followed in my father’s footsteps even before I knew him. He develops businesses, markets products, and never puts himself above selling anything that he truly believes in. If there is a need or a desire for a product or a business, he can sell it. My father is not a has-been by any means. He keeps up with technology and is now embracing green business.
He told me a story a couple of weeks ago which showed me where I got my tenacity. I want to share this story with you today because it might help you to re-think your target market and think outside the box.
Back in the 60’s, my father was a salesman without a product to sell. A salesman without a product to sell is a lost business person indeed. However, a good entrepreneur has the ability to quickly adapt and create something from nothing.
One day my father came across a man who had 2 trainloads of pots and pans that he didn’t know what to do with. The man purchased them upfront, couldn’t sell them, and was about to lose both train loads. The two of them meeting was a great opportunity and a match for both! The man needed to sell the pots and pans and my father needed a product to sell.
My father asked, “How much do you want to sell those sets of pans for?” The man said, these are the greatest set of stainless steel pots and pans being sold today, and I would like to sell them for $79.00 per set.
My father thought for a minute and asked the man, “What would happen to the two trainloads of pots and pans if you don’t sell them?” The man replied, “I will lose all of my investment, and will lose the pots and pans.
My father told the man that the price on the pots and pans were too high if he intended to sell them quickly. My father told him that if he agreed to sell them for $22.00 per set that my father would do the test market for him and help him sell the two trainloads of pots and pans . . . The two men agreed.
My father immediately came up with a great marketing plan and was off and running. He went into bars or wherever there were MEN and actually marketed the pots and pans to men! He told them that their wives and/or girlfriends cooked for them all day, and they needed to buy them this great set of stainless steel pans. Most women who had started a career were still the primary cooks in the house and were juggling both career and cooking. My father didn’t leave one place without selling every set of pots and pans that he walked through the door with.
When my father returned to the man with the trainload of pots and pans, he told him that there was now enough money to rent a warehouse, move the pots and pans, and hire salesmen to sell them. They hired 200 salesmen, taught them how to sell them and paid commission only. Not only was the test market solid, but the client was established and the two men were able to delegate and employ 200 salesmen without increasing overhead.
Within a couple of weeks, the pots and pans were all sold. Yes, they had to be discounted, but they weren’t lost. The man who purchased the pots and pans in the beginning didn’t make as much money as he had hoped, but he made a generous profit when both trainloads of pots and pans were completely gone. He also sold a huge quantity of product by lowering his price.
We as entrepreneurs must be wise enough to find niche products to sell and be wise enough to make sure that we do a unique test market. Finding the right product is the most important part of business for a successful entrepreneur, selecting the optimum client is next, and working outside the box increases your thought process.
I am a good business woman, but I probably would have started off by selling the pots and pans to women! Women are the ones who did all the cooking back then so women would have been my obvious choice as a client. However, my father went straight for the men who were sitting in the neighborhood bar spending at least $22.00 on their drinks. He encouraged them to bring a gift home to their wives and told them if their drinks were worth $22.00 then their wives certainly were too.
Most likely in this day and age, many of us women would not want a nice set of pots and pans as a gift, but back then when most women were still the primary fulltime cook, I am sure that the new set of pots and pans were an unexpected treat for them.
It is necessary for those of us who are marketing a product or a service to target and pinpoint our clientele, but it is also important that we are ready to change the plan at a moments notice. Working outside the box is the key to a successful entrepreneur, just like my father who decided to sell to men instead of women.
What I gained from that story, is the realization that the obvious path is not always the path we should follow, and maybe we should actually embrace the less obvious path . . . the path less traveled, the path less followed, the unique path.
I write a lot about the economical decline and how it affects business because we are in a time when we need to think outside the box and be creative. Of course, we need to know who our client is, but we also need to broaden our thinking when it comes to our marketing plan.
I suggest that you fine tune your marketing plan, go back over your plan, and expand your thoughts! Find out who your clientele CAN BE instead of who you really think your clientele IS.
No entrepreneur should ever work inside the box. I was told by a good friend of mine today that I have always been a little bit of a rebel. I am a person who has always thought outside the box. My dad’s story gave me awareness that we should sometimes take the less obvious path and explore avenues which others don’t, and that’s what gives us the edge!
My father was smart enough to sell the pots and pans to men . . . he took the less obvious path. Which path would you have taken?