Recently, I have begun to take understanding the non-technical side of running a business more seriously. I applied for an online MBA and was lucky to get a spot. I will begin my classes by January 2015.
But by some stroke of luck I came into temporal ownership of the MBA texts of one of the highest ranking and one of the most expensive universities in the world. The university currently ranks as 3rd in Europe and 9th in the world. So I got exposed to hand compiled texts by some of the best professors in the business fields and the textbooks they recommended as the best. And lots of case studies.
What first struck me was that MBA isn't as easy as I thought. The module texts, required readings, case studies and work involved are intensive. And going through the course structure and texts convinced me that Josh Kaufman was wrong about anyone being able to get an MBA education by reading some select textbooks. He is wrong about doing a personal MBA, self-study MBA, as an equivalent of a proper expensive MBA. I have read his The Personal MBA and read some of the books he recommended to read to get the understanding that will equal that a university MBA will provide. The trouble is they are a lot of books (over 100) and some have very conflicting ideas, and by the time you are done reading them you'll have the impossible task of compiling those knowledge into one practical easily recalled body of knowledge. And you don't get a professional to guide you through and give you case studies that will help burn in the knowledge you acquire.
I'm already beginning to get practically applicable knowledge from the texts. I got to learn that in business you don't try to sell what you can make, be it goods or services. You, rather, make what you can sell. Figuring out what people readily need and will pay for is way more important than making a perfect product first and trying to get buyers for it. And this has changed my perception of my business. I used to feel unhappy about the fact that I don't have a product that I can mass produce, either as a software or online tool. Now I am much less bothered about that. I am now happy that my current jobs are tailored to the clients' needs. I often have to spend days meeting and discussing with the client to be able to come up with a scope of work. No two projects I handle are the same. I don't have a ready made solution that I'm selling, I simply let the clients show me their problem and I tell them the ones I can fix. I make what I can sell. And, hopefully, after a while I will specialize more and have a robust tool I can sell to clients with a popular need.
The next valuable thing I have learned is that products have a lifecycle. And my Excel consulting product is in the birth stage of its lifecycle in Nigeria. Not many people know what it means and if they need my service. A large portion of my potential clients don't know they need me. I often have to do a free demo before they begin to see the value I can create for them. And there are some things that are peculiar to this stage of the product lifecycle. Especially recommended ways of marketing, of positioning myself way ahead of existing and coming competitions.
The third thing I learned is that the best way to have a differential advantage is to start with focus on a small niche. Spread myself less broadly as the competitions and be the best in the niche market I have defined. So I will be focusing on building macros and servicing corporate clients. And maybe even focus on the Telecoms industry only. I have a well rounded knowledge of the entire telecoms industry in Nigeria and huge contact base. Being this narrowly focus will quickly build up my reputation and sideline the competition in my chosen turf.