SAN ANGELO, Texas — The title of a book caught my attention and got me thinking.
I haven’t read the book, but its title is what intrigued me. The book is “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. I haven’t read the book yet, but it is being touted as very good, having gone to achieving the No. 1 spot on best-seller lists. This article isn’t about her book.
What does it mean to lean in? As I thought about the phrase I realized it implied using an effort to gain or use leverage to move something. In trying to move a piece of furniture, you have two options. One, you could pick up the piece and move it. Two, it may be too large or heavy to move and you push or pull it.
If the object is heavy enough you cannot stand upright and push it with any real expectation that it will move. You have to step back, lean in to it and push. That process creates the leverage you need to move the piece.
Another example comes from the frontier days of oxen pulling the old Conestoga wagons. The oxen could not stand upright and walk because the weight of the wagon and its contents was too great. In order to get the wagon moving, they had to lean into their harnesses and generate enough leverage to get the wagon moving.
There is a phrase made popular by the movie “Field of Dreams”: “If you build it, they will come.” In some cases that statement may be true. But, there is no guarantee they will stay or continue to come, if they really do come initially. What are we talking about here? Customers.
Very often, entrepreneurs put all the blocks in place to open a business. They open the doors and lean back and wait for the throngs of customers to show up that they know are coming. After all, they built their dream and customers will come. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy.
In some cases, opening the business was the easy part. It’s kind of like that Conestoga wagon. It is loaded but it isn’t moving. Now is the time to lean in and apply some leverage.
When your customer traffic has failed to take off or has dwindled from that initial surge that occurs just because it’s something new, you have to go after customers. You explore and find ways to draw customers into your business. Maybe you need to have a website or social media page that promotes your business and allows you to interact with your customers. Maybe you need to develop a promotional campaign that piques your customers’ interest.
I think a great example of leaning in is the businesses in the food courts of most malls. They don’t just stand at the counter waiting for you to recognize them as your best choice for a meal. They often have their employees hawking samples to passers-by from over the counter. In some cases, they have someone out in front of the counter trying to get you to sample the food. By sampling the food, their hope is you will become their customer. They are leaning in instead of leaning back.
The Angelo State University Small Business Development Center can assist in defining your customer base and help you develop a plan to go after them. Don’t lean back. Lean in. Use your leverage.
“Business Tips” was written by James Leavelle, Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser I of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact him at James.Leavelle@angelo.edu.