At the end of the day, that's what it's all about, right? People don't care about what you're selling if it doesn't provide some defined measure of value to people. “What about the pet rock?” Even the fucking pet rock had value: novelty value.
For those budding entrepreneurs out there, this is the bottom line. I hope this blog provides some value; if nothing else, it's tough to beat the price. But for any potential product line you're planning on rolling out, or new service business you're ready to start up, ask yourself the one basic question that matters: what am I bringing to the table that people value?
A lot of formerly very “valuable” tasks or fields have been made obsolete by technology. It used to be difficult for people to make travel plans, and hotels and airlines used to have a difficult time finding potential customers. Enter the travel agent, who served both needs well. Unfortunately for travel agents, the internet has made all of these activities easier, so they are generally on the way out. But replacing those travel agents are sites like Orbitz and Hotwire, which have provided their creators with fantastic entrepreneurial opportunities, and jobs for hundreds of other people.
That's lesson one: be ready to exploit advances in technology. This will become more and more difficult as technology continues to advance at an exponentially rapid pace, but the opportunities will still be there for people that get in on the front end. That's why whenever you see some new technology that you think has a chance to take off, you should think through potential useful applications of that technology that would provide value to people.
That leads to point two: there are two ways to provide value to the customer: either do something that nobody has done before that makes things cheaper, easier or faster for customers, or do something that people are already doing better. The second way is much more difficult than the first—just ask any restauranteur or lawyer how tough it is to stand out based solely on how “good” you are at something. That's why doing what you want to be doing is so important—that way you'll constantly seek ways to improve in your field and become better at what you do. If you become “one of the best,” you're inherently more valuable to other people than if you're just “another one.”
I hope this makes sense—I've been traveling for over 24 hours now with only a couple of hours of sleep to tide me over. Looking forward to touching down in Sydney shortly.
Any other thoughts on how to provide value? Something I missed? Let me know in the comments.