On a recent 710 WOR "Mind Your Business" broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg (IG), a well-known business strategist.
YS: Let’s jump in perhaps with a particular challenge that has crossed your desk. The challenge and the solution that you brought to the table.
IG: The goal when you start a business is not to make money. I know that sounds shocking. The goal, even in this period where coronavirus is concerned, maybe your goal is not to make money. Maybe your goal is to keep your clients happy or to generate new business. And then once these things pass and they will pass, hopefully sooner rather than later, then at that point, your goal is to take advantage of the work you've done until now, to try to make money. So instead of ordering a container from China and waiting for three months for it to arrive, if you ordered a smaller amount of goods and have it shipped by air, which will eat into your profit, but ultimately, you'd be able to sell goods at cost or slightly more than cost which would certainly be good. And instead of losing business, instead of risking a large amount of money for something that may end up not working out, what you end up doing first is that you have some amount of goods that you can sell further, develop a loyal client base, and then once you have the base, the next step is to figure out, OK, how do I make money off these clients? Do I now order a container from China? Do I source from someplace else? But especially if you're starting and trying to build a brand and so on and so forth, instead of trying to make money, try to find customers and eventually figure out how to make money as the next step as opposed to from the get-go.
YS: There are many times when someone approaches us here at Bottom Line, and they have what we'll call a seed that they could plant in the ground. It's a great concept, but it's a raw concept. And it needs to be fleshed out. It needs to be thought through and it needs to be challenged as well. So, my question to you is, as a business strategist, what's the approach that you take when you're meeting with someone that has in their mind a brilliant idea. And now, of course, there's an emotional attachment. Let's face it. You know, when someone has some idea it's their own baby and the product or the service may or may not be financially successful out there in the marketplace, perhaps you can explain what happens when someone approaches you with an idea that they've thought of for perhaps months, years. And then they bring it to you. What's the approach that you take?
IG: Ok, so first, it's a great question. First of all, everyone thinks, as it should be, that their idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread, if not the wheel. You want to validate their idea that it's a good one, assuming it actually isn't the worst you’ve ever heard. You want to gently guide them to a version of their idea that can actually work. Sometimes the idea itself, as is, can work as any famous entrepreneur can attest to from their initial idea to their initial startup to how they pivoted over the years, how they got to a level of success. But it took a lot of work. It wasn't just the initial idea, boom and we're done. It was actually massaging that idea, finessing that idea, and making that idea into something viable. So, when someone comes to me with an idea, first thing I want to know after I hear the idea is why they want to do this idea, do they want to because they think it's a good profitable idea or if they had tons of money would they do this idea because they think it's something that people will find value in and they want to do it. The point is, if you had tons of money and you thought this was a good idea, you would be developing this idea even if it wouldn't make you a penny just to make society a better place. When someone comes with an idea, what you're really trying to first figure out is where's this idea coming from? Do they think it's a trillion-dollar idea or do they think it's an idea that’s going to change the world and hopefully they are also going to make money doing it? Of course, we're going to say the obvious, that a company exists and has to generate revenue to be financially viable. True. But really, a company exists to solve a pain point in the marketplace. The company exists in order to provide some type of service or product that doesn't exist. Or maybe your product or service can be done in a way that provides a better level of service than the previous one. But simply to say, all right, I'm launching this, it's going to make a ton of money, and then your kind of you know, you don't follow all the mile markers properly and wind up putting out a second-rate product or cutting corners simply because you want to make money. And in the end, it's definitely not a recipe for long term success.
YS: Let's say you're going to be giving strategic direction to a company that wants to be out there and build this great organization. But they say to themselves, listen, why do I need a consultant? At the end of the day, I have the idea. I have a vision for it. What do I gain? Why should I spend ultimately five, ten thousand dollars with a consultant when I have the idea already in my head?
IG: First of all, there are many people who have opened businesses successfully and they've done the grind and they've spent 20 years making a business go from zero to hero, really building a very successful business. And for some unusual reason when the next business opportunity comes along, when they're doing something new or in my case, for example, a specific case I'm thinking of, somebody who is a very wealthy man, is putting his son into business. He doesn't want to have his son come into his business, his son is starting his own business. And the father is helping him out, the father's like, listen, when I started, I didn't have the money to hire a consultant, somebody to guide me. Somebody to be my partner without having to split the money with them. Just be my partner, be in my ear and guide me properly now that I have the money to help you. I don't want you to have to sweat through what I sweated through.
YS: Perhaps now we can move to a very important topic, and that is managing expectations. At the end of the day every company exists to solve a pain point in the marketplace. And, of course, you know, it has to turn a profit in order to be successful. Yet at the same time, you know, companies don't, become a great success story overnight. What's your advice to companies out there that they have to be realistic on managing expectations?
IG:When your client pays you, they have a specific vision in their head, a specific picture or a specific video playing in their head, which is, I'm paying this in exchange for this. I'm going to be receiving something in exchange. The more you can paint that picture for your clients fairly and properly of what they're going to receive, the happier they will be with what they purchased. As an example, I fly a lot, or at least I did until recently. When you go on an airplane and you buy a ticket, you have an expectation of what you're going to receive for this amount of money when you're flying a short hop in Europe from one place to another and you can't take any luggage and you can’t even pick a seat without paying extra. But ultimately, you know that this airline for this amount of money is going to give me nothing except they're going to help me get from point A to point B. And I can usually know I'm on the local airlines, for example, when you get to the destination airport, you're probably going to have to get off the plane on stairs and take a bus to the airport. So essentially, you know, you're paying the low price. You're getting a very basic service, and that's fine. But when I'm paying for a full-service flight, I expect them to have some kosher food served to me on the plane. So, the managing expectations is something that I think is discussed in concept a whole lot. But essentially, if your customer is paying you a certain amount of money and then you over-deliver, what does over delivery mean? If I'm flying on a local airline and they pull up till the airport and they have a sleeve connecting the plane to the airport, I'm so happy. I'm so excited in the sense that I feel I got even more value than I was expecting, which means they over delivered. Right. So, I think it's something that every business has to think about. How much is my customer paying me? What do they think they're getting for that money? Do they leave disappointed or do they leave basically happy or leave super excited happy?
YS: Rabbi, the time flies when we do a show, especially with a great guest like you. We have only approximately two and a half minutes left. And my final question to you is what takeaway could you share, whether it's a business, whether it's a non-profit, but someone out there, is ambitious, wants to be successful. What's a final takeaway that you could share?
IG: I know this may sound cliche, but people wait for the perfect idea or the perfect opportunity to launch. For example, I had a lifelong dream of having my own synagogue, essentially my own community synagogue. And I opened my synagogue here in Jerusalem three weeks before the coronavirus essentially shut down the entire world and here in Israel, as well as many other places, synagogues as well. There never will be the perfect time to do something because there's always different things going on in the world or locally or with your potential clients or other people having all kinds of plans, which you know nothing about which may affect your potential idea or business. People know from their past experiences in business or lack of experience in the business, that they sort of get frozen and unable to move. You just have to take what you got, take the best shot using the amount of information you were able to put together. Do what you honestly feel is the right thing to do and just go for it.