The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

February 20, 2014

Knowing target: Speaker gives budding entrepreneurs ideas on starting up a small business

ENID, Okla. — Perspiration, passion, cold pizza and sleeping under the desk — that’s what most startup businesses look like.

Bob Dorf, co-author of “The Startup Owners Manual,” spoke to an audience of about 60 Thursday afternoon during Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s business seminar, “Leadership and Entrepreneurs: Creating a Prosperous Culture of Success.”

Dorf’s topic, “Ask Your Customers to Help Design Your Startup Success: An Introduction to Customer Development,” is based on the ideas in his book.

“Anybody here ever write a business plan?” Dorf asked.

A smattering of hands went up.

Dorf said writing business plans should be moved out of the university business department and into the English department, because it should be taught as fiction writing instead.

“Realize these are hypotheses,” Dorf said. “This is what you really have — you have your best guesses about a business.”

At the end of the day, the entrepreneur’s best guesses are irrelevant if customers do not react as the entrepreneur thought they would.

Entrepreneurs should begin with a business model instead of business plan. The business model should rely heavily on customer input and knowing what customers want, need and will pay for.

Entrepreneurs should know who their target customers are, what they are offering their customers and how their product is better than the one offered by another business.

They also should know how their customers want to be reached and how to develop relationships with each segment of customers.

“The heart of an entrepreneur beats on sales,” Dorf said.

“Sales” is a wider category than merely the product, he said. Sometimes what the entrepreneur is selling is the company.

“Let customer feedback guide you all the way through the process,” Dorf said.

Other speakers Thursday included Tony Woodlief, director of State Policy Network; Veronica Hunt, owner of Skatetown; Mark Allen, AdvancePierre Foods; Deborah Gallander, business development specialist for Oklahoma Small Business Development Center at NWOSU; and Cindy and John Greven, owners of Broadway Exchange.

Dorf also was speaker at an evening dinner Thursday.

The two-day seminar ends today. The schedule is:

• 8-8:10 a.m. — Jerry Gustafson, NWOSU, orientation.

• 8:10-8:45 a.m. — Sarah Herrian, owner of Five80 Coffeehouse, “Starting a Non-Profit Business.”

• 9-9:45 a.m. — Tony Woodlief, director of State Policy Network, “Prosperity Principles.”

• 10-10:45 a.m. — Jerry Hunter, CEO of U.S. Fleet Tracking, “There Are Opportunities at Every Turn.”

• 11-11:45 a.m. — Bruce Jackson, owner of Jacksons of Enid, “Selling Cars and Changing With the Times.”

• 11:45 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. — Lunch.

• 12:10-12:45 p.m. — Stan Merrifield, owner of Merrifield’s Office Supply, “The Story of Merrifield’s Office Supply.”

• 1-1:45 p.m. — Eli Slater, owner of Taco Bandito, “A Personal Road to Ownership.”

• 2-2:45 p.m. — Mike Cooper, AdvancePierre Foods, “The History and Development of Northern Oklahoma Warehouse Solutions.”

• 3-3:45 p.m. — Becky Kroeker, owner of ATS Counseling-Focus Institute, “Integrity and Entrepreneurial Leadership.”

• 3:45-4 p.m. — Gustafson, closing remarks.

The seminar, in Room 218 at NWOSU-Enid, 2929 E. Randolph, is free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

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