Monday, February 16, 2015

Entrepreneurial Axioms: The Language Doesn’t Matter

On my recent vacation in Mexico with my family, I wasn’t surprised to observe plenty of entrepreneurs (empresarios in Spanish) south of the border. It doesn’t matter whether they are locals or foreigners.  They all seem to speak a common language—entrepreneurship.

Take the story of the folks who founded South of the Border Volleyball Vacations. They followed the common wisdom that you should find something you love and are passionate about and turn it into a business. They’ve created an entire business around their passion for volleyball, hosting over 4,000 participants in tropical volleyball trips that combine volleyball, the beach, and more than a few Coronas. 

I’ve learned over the years how important it is to “know your customer.” Yes, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not referring to the regulations that govern banking and brokerage transactions. I’m talking about how understanding your customer is more likely to make for a successful business relationship. I work hard to know my clients, their businesses, and their goals so I can help them be successful. While I’m not sure that the locals in Ixtapa trying to sell something to some gringos are similarly motivated, they clearly are using this axiom to further their prospects for making a sale. A couple quick examples:

When my wife walked down the beach with my girls, she was only approached 
        by vendors trying to sell her braids or, possibly, a henna tattoo. When it was just 
        me, the assumption was  that I’d be interested in fishing (or marijuana). When 
        the whole family was together, we’d be offered snorkeling trips or horseback riding.

The guy working the “information” kiosk trying to get us to stop and talk so he 
        could sign us up for a timeshare presentation (possibly one of the worst jobs in 
        terms of being ignored by potential customers) managed to mention a sea turtle 
        release just as my 11- and 8-year-old girls were wandering by. We couldn’t actually
        just ignore him, right, even though we suspected that it was fabricated to peak our 
        interest. (No, we didn’t sign up for the presentation and, no, I’m not the proud 
        owner of a week in Mexico.) By the way, the release never happened.

I guess that the language you speak may not be all that important when you’re an entrepreneur. Heck, I bet there were probably even entrepreneurs at Tower of Babel—maybe trying to help people with translation services…Regardless, whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to sell your new gizmo (or raise money to develop it) or a local merchant trying to sell your wares on the beach, knowing your audience can be critical to your ability to succeed.

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