In February, Searcy was named winner of the Deluxe Corp. Small Business Revolution contest. Local businesses rallied support throughout the semester for a revitalization of the city through improvements to small business. We talked with Director of the Waldron Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship Ken Olree about his perspective on starting a small business in an era where many customers prioritize shopping and eating locally.
You really have to understand if there’s a market for whatever product or service you want to provide. There’s a little bit of a shift in thinking in terms of entrepreneurship. Historically, it has been about putting forth an idea and building a strong business plan around it with very little focus on customer interaction. That has changed a lot in the sense that there’s a much larger emphasis on really getting to know your customer well — understanding what their needs are and understanding how a solution that you might provide will fit into their daily way of doing things already rather than trying to impose an artificial solution onto them and having them back away and say, ‘I can’t integrate that into the other things that I’m doing.’
Instead, you examine how potential customers make purchasing decisions and solve problems to understand if they would buy your product or like what you’re selling. I think people are realizing this is much more important than saying, ‘I’ve got a great idea, and I’m going to impose it on everyone else.’ Now, more businesses owners are exploring how they can design a product or a service that fits well with the way people are already operating. It’s about coming through and solving a problem.