Elevate Your Startup’s Growth Strategy with These Methods from Diana Kander

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur looking for growth, it’s important to understand how to compete effectively and that may require some innovation. On today’s show, we’re learning from someone who has spent her career as a serial entrepreneur and also transformed businesses like H&R Block. We’re pleased to welcome Diana Kander, keynote speaker, New York Times best-selling author, innovation consultant, and serial entrepreneur.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Diana, thank you so much for joining us on the show.

Diana Kander:
Thank you so much, Jim. I’m excited to be here.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So for those of our viewers out there that may not know your background and your entrepreneurial story. As well as we do, share with our viewers, how you got started and a little bit about your background.

Diana Kander:
Sure. I am a refugee from the Soviet Union. I immigrated to the US when I was eight years old with my parents. Wow. They had 256 dollars to their name and spoke no English, had no connections. And they got a job at Pizza Hut, my dad and my mom got a job at TJ Maxx. And so they had very limited upward mobility. And when I was in middle school, they started a family business actually.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Diana Kander:
And that business transformed my family from being at the very bottom of the income ladder to like moving several rungs up. And so I got a real taste for entrepreneurship and business ownership and how to grow something from a very young age.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is a fantastic story. And it’s kind of like the very essence of the American story, right? The American way, the American dream, right? To come to this country and realize success as small business owner. So congratulations to your folks on all of that. And so you shared some of the lessons learned in your book titled All in Startup. Can you share a few of those lessons today with our viewers?

Diana Kander:
Yeah, I would just say the number one thing is we assume we know what the customer wants and oftentimes the smarter you are, the more accomplished you are before you start a business, the more you think you understand customers and what you should know is they are delightfully irrational people. And so just because as you are smart and you think you can predict them, they’re irrational and they’re not going to act in the way that you think. So going out and testing whether they actually find value in what you have to offer, even if it makes logical sense, there’s lots of things that make logical sense in our lives that we do not do every day. So let’s see how people will actually behave before you spend too much time and too much money investing in something.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah absolutely. That’s absolutely great advice. What are some of the big challenges facing entrepreneurs and business owners today, from your perspective?

Diana Kander:
I think how easy it is to launch something. It’s very easy to create swag for a business and to hang up a door to start selling things. And so people think that that means that they’re going to get customers right away, but the competition is higher than ever before. And so you are competing at a global level, even if you’re selling cookies in Kansas City or whatever city you’re in. So how do you stand out and make sure that what you have solves a problem for customers, that’s the key now more than ever.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right. Do you think the internet helps to level the playing field somewhat with entrepreneurs and small business owners that they’re able to bring their goods and services to market so long as they’ve got a website and are able to deliver?

Diana Kander:
Yeah. I think that as long as you have a compelling message, you can get it out all over the world. So the problem is the playing field is level for everybody. And you just have to make sure that you have a compelling message that solves a real problem. That’s really what I try to help businesses figure out is, is it solving a headache, which is something that we will ignore until it goes away? Or is it solving a migraine level problem, which is something that people will stop at nothing to try to solve. So how do you tell the difference between the two?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right. Yeah. That’s a good question. How do you, by the way?

Diana Kander:
Well, you figure out if they’ve tried to solve the problem, if they have spent money trying to solve the problem, and if that’s the case, then maybe you have something real serious there.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. For sure. For sure. Talk to us about great leadership. What are the keys to success in any leadership role from your perspective?

Diana Kander:
I think it is listening to your team and making space for conversations where people might disagree with you. Again, the smarter you are, the more you think you have the solutions to every problem, and the people on your team, they probably are the closest to the customer. So opening up that space for them to be able to disagree with you and challenge how you think will make the idea much better in the long run.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right. And we’ve heard a lot about innovation, especially throughout the continued pandemic. Talk to us about why this idea is so important for business growth.

Diana Kander:
You have to stay relevant to your customers. And that means listening to what is happening to customers. Now everyone’s customers have changed over the last two years, and if you’re not listening to them and have a regular feedback loop of how they’re doing, what they’re interested in, what they expect from you, then you’re going to fall behind to companies that are doing that listening.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Yeah. For sure. There seems to be a lot of companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs that have completely pivoted their businesses during these times, and actually come out on the other side, pretty good. A number of small owners of, or I should say small business owners that own restaurants and such that have decided, look, nobody’s coming in, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the food to them. And now today, even though they’re able to have people in their dining room and such, they still have a very strong to-go business. So that’s just one example, but there are so many others out there, right. Isn’t it important for companies to look at that and say, we really need to pivot at the right time?

Diana Kander:
Yeah. We are all in a constant state of pivot. And those who aren’t thinking about what’s next are going to fall behind to those that are.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Boy, that’s so true. Can you go wrong with innovation?

Diana Kander:
Yeah. I mean, innovation is different than invention. So invention is just like coming up with new stuff. Innovation is coming up with new stuff that creates value for customers. So make sure you have that piece that you’re not just coming up with new stuff, but that you’ve talked to customers, tested it and made sure that they actually care enough to spend money on it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. What do you want the takeaways to be in the book All in Startup?

Diana Kander:
I think it’s that you constantly have to test your assumptions that you have about the customers and the more sure you are about what they want, the scarier should be for you. Without evidence, even in writing that book, I went out with the first draft to customers and they were like, I don’t understand what the message of the book is. I don’t really like the characters. I had to completely rewrite it seven different times to make sure I had a message that was compelling enough that people wanted to listen to. And so think of your business that way, show it to customers, get their honest feedback, find the surprising insights that they have that will actually make your product or service so much better.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Fantastic. Great advice. Diana Kander, who is a serial entrepreneur and New York Times best selling author, innovation consultant, and keynote speaker. I want to thank you so much for joining us here on the Atlanta Small Business Show.

Diana Kander:
Hey, it was my pleasure. Thank you so much, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. Thanks.


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