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198: Catherine Kaputa: The Brand of You

Brands are prized by corporations as significant value-driving economic assets. Brands help customers enjoy more valuable experiences, raising willingness-to-pay levels and thus improving cash flows — higher cash flows as a result of higher prices, faster cash flows because branded products tend to turn faster than their non-branded counterparts, longer lasting cash flows because brands have longevity in customers’ perceptions, and less volatile cash flows because brand loyalty can smooth out the effects of economic booms and busts.
For these reasons, corporations invest in brands and brand building. Catherine Kaputa makes the case that individuals should invest in themselves as brands, and makes the tools of brand-building available to individuals for personal brand-building: the brand of you.
Knowledge Capsule
You are a brand, assessed subjectively by your customers.
Think of yourself as a brand. Think of your customers – your boss, other leaders and decision-makers in your firm, your colleagues, your clients, your suppliers. They all have a subjective perception of you and the value to which you can contribute in any business situation. Is it the perception you want? Do people see you as the problem solver and solution designer for their problems? Like any brand owner, you can work to actively shape that perception. As Catherine Kaputa puts it: If you don’t brand yourself, others will, and they may not brand you the way you want to be branded.
The first tool in the branding toolbox is positioning.
The branding community has developed the idea of brand positioning. In the perception space in which your brand operates, you seek to identify a unique, highly differentiated position. You want to be perceived as different and better. Positioning is the identification and selection of that unique space in the minds of customers and the basis of the of credibility, reputation and trust to be able to make the claim.
Importantly, positioning requires outside-in thinking. Think of your customers first, their needs, their mindset, and their perception of the other brands in the space. Your positioning must be in their minds, not yours.
Differentiation is a most important element of positioning.
Typically, perception spaces are competitive. Customers looking for solutions to problems and better experiences scan the space for alternatives and make comparisons between them. Know your competitors, assess them through the eyes of your customers, and find a positioning that is both different from and better than alternatives for your customer, using their mental model and assessment criteria. Aim to “own” that unique space – meaning that the customer identifies you as the only one or the best one of their alternatives to meet a particular need.
Attach an idea to yourself.
A way to pin down a perception in a customer’s mind is to attach an idea to a brand, in this case yourself as a brand, in a way that the connection is immediate and becomes automatic. The idea should be singular and highly focused. Catherine Kaputa recommends a process of subtraction to reach a singular idea — you’ll start with a multi-layered and possibly complicated idea, but if you keep subtracting the least relevant, least important and least differentiated elements, you’ll arrive at the pared-down singularity. You should be able to express it in a phrase or a sentence, one that you can keep repeating to embed it.
Her own example in her marketing career was to brand herself as “good with difficult clients”. Every marketing services company has clients or accounts or marketing challenges that are deemed to be difficult and not everyone wants to be exposed to that risk. Someone who steps up and enjoys performing well on such a stage is both differentiated and highly sought after.
Personal brand positioning strategy templates provide another tool for self-branding.
In her book The New Brand You, Catherine Kaputa provides 10 brand positioning templates as examples of how an individual might approach the process of self-branding and build their own brand.
Download “Ten Personal Brand Positioning Strategies” in PDF: Mises.org/E4B_198_PDF
These are complete templates for rigorous use and application, appropriate for individual interpretation, embellishment and nuance.
One example is the Innovator strategy. Let’s use this template as an example of the self-brand positioning process.
1. What’s the customer need that the Innovator addresses? Identify your target audience and the problem they want solved. Innovators are needed to create something new, when existing strategies are failing or sales are declining or new market entrants are redefining the terms of competition. New solutions are sought, and Innovators are the ones people turn to. Innovators are recognized as the creative resource that’s required.
2. What are the attributes to point to in order to claim the Innovator positioning? Catherine Kaputa lists 5:
Visionary with clear objectives: not just creative, but capable of identifying business objectives for creativity and of seizing opportunities.
Brilliant at problem-solving: full of ideas, but always directed towards solving important problems.
Bold risk-taking: when others hold back, Innovators are eager to design and run experiments from which to learn, knowing there’s no such thing as failure, just new knowledge.
Fresh thinking: not following the crowd but diverging from the norm.
Inventive: Innovators demonstrate the capacity to be first in new designs, new thinking and new ideas.
The point is to evaluate yourself against the attributes of the positioning type: is this you?
3. The next step is a positioning statement. Catherine provides examples:
Sample Positioning Statement: An innovative professional in an industry beset by mergers and dynamic change positioned herself in the following way.
Draft Sentence: For senior managers, boss, clients, industry who need new products and services I stand for innovative problem solver in industries undergoing massive change.
The format to use is: For (target audience) who needs (problem you solve) I stand for (value proposition).
4. Add reasons to believe. Pick three reasons and 3 keywords or phrases as to why customers should invest in your positioning statement by hiring you or giving you the project.
Innovator is just one of multiple possible strategies. Yours may be one of these or a combination of several. There’s a personal test you can take at Mises.org/E4B_198_Test for initial input to start your positioning process.
Positioning is a means not an end: there is more work to do.
Catherine Kaputa follows the logic of brand positioning all the way to implementation. It’s not a theory, it’s a practice. There are actions that brand marketers take to communicate and embed their positioning. She cites three major ones: visual identity, verbal identity and brand marketing.
Commercial brands spend a lot of time, effort and resources on a brand’s look: logo design, package design, website colors and typefaces, video style, and so on. The goal is to communicate a style and an engaging and brand-appropriate visual personality. The same principles apply to personal branding – choose your look, your dress-style and fashion carefully and thoughtfully.
Verbal identity comes from the words you use, the story you tell, and how you communicate in presentations, e-mails, tweets, speeches and conversations, whether in the conference room, the auditorium or on zoom. Work on it.
Marketing your brand should be guided by your goals for your personal brand. Once you have them defined, choose your media, your message, your content, your campaign tactics and your metrics.
Additional Resources
The New Brand You: How to Wow in the New World of Work by Catherine Kaputa: Mises.org/E4B_198_Book
Find your own brand positioning (Mises.org/E4B_198_Test) on SelfBrand.com
“Ten Personal Brand Positioning Strategies” (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_198_PDF

197. Phil Johnson: Entrepreneurs Demonstrate A Special Emotional Intelligence

Business success goes beyond numbers and planning and finance acumen. There’s an emotional component to it, ranging from the courage to make decisions without knowing the outcomes in an uncertain future, to the resilience of weathering storms and coping with unanticipated crises. There is also, of course, the joy of achievement and goal-attainment. There’s a concept identified as emotional intelligence that individuals and teams can cultivate as an element of a mental model that’s well-aligned with business performance and positive business outcomes.
Knowledge Capsule
The entrepreneurial method is to pursue change, but people’s natural attitude is to resist change.
We have an inbuilt, biological resistance to change. It triggers fear and anxiety that get in the way of moving towards the change that we seek. In addition to this emotional resistance, we develop habits that keep us in the status quo, and present another barrier to behavioral change. We all must fight an internal battle between our old habits and desired new habits.
Entrepreneurs develop a special emotional intelligence that motivates action.
Entrepreneurs are in the business of making change. They can overcome the natural emotional and behavioral barriers because they have a highly developed emotional intelligence. They have such an emotional relationship with their vision of a successful outcome for their efforts that they can overcome fearful restraints and resistance to change. They are especially highly motivated to take action. It’s their emotion that drives action, not intellect.
Emotional intelligence is much more influential in business success than IQ.
A 40-year study at UC Berkeley found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is 400% more powerful than IQ in predicting which individuals would have success in their field. Private companies like PepsiCo and Apple have uncovered similar findings in their internal studies.
High emotional intelligence not only releases personal energy and creativity, but it also results in higher levels of interpersonal trust and shared engagement with others. With high emotional intelligence, we are driven to help others to enjoy better experiences as well as to advance out of our own comfort zones to access new areas of achievement.
The consequence of achieving high levels of emotional intelligence is higher levels of trust and engagement in business, and, thereby, better business results.
Everyone can improve their emotional intelligence and benefit from its compounding effect.
We are pretty much born with our IQ — we can’t increase it. But everyone can raise their level of emotional intelligence. Not only that, but emotional intelligence is a compounding asset — we can raise it and raise it again and keep on raising, so long as we work at it.
Part of the equation is personal energy management.
Phil Johnson identifies personal energy as the core element at the heart of the power of emotional intelligence. We “give our energy away” when we permit others to disrupt our emotional flow — make us annoyed or angry or resentful or frustrated. As a consequence, we feel the need to “steal energy from others” by getting the better of them or by exercising a command-and-control management style. The net result is strife, dissension, and misalignment — where team or corporate energy is wasted. We can avoid this waste by cultivating emotional intelligence.
There are high-ROI habits, practices and skills that help to build emotional intelligence.
Happily, we can practice some of the habits and skills that develop and demonstrate emotional intelligence.
One such habit is authentic listening: when we take criticism personally, we give away energy. So, if we eliminate all personal inner-directed emotion from our reception of comments and suggestions from others, we can utilize all the experience and knowledge that’s shared with us for betterment and improvement. Don’t resist, don’t judge. Don’t let attachment to our own preferences get in the way of receiving input. Don’t raise walls. We have no personal interest in what others think of us, only in the information they can impart, which might be useful
The other side of the coin is authentic communication: be sure that all the content of our communication is factual and positively motivating and designed to be helpful to others, strengthening trust and engagement. If we develop a consistent reputation for authentic communication, we’ll raise engagement (and Gallup reports that employee engagement is at a very low level today, which is a great cost to economic productivity).
In addition to habits and practices, Phil Johnson urges us to commit to the emotional labor of recognizing our own fears, biases, and status quo preferences, and to establish an emotional distance between our motivations to action and our ego-based fear. It’s emotional labor that pays interest — it has a high ROI.
Emotional intelligence releases the power of intuition, and creates a state of flow.
When we fear making decisions, we try to rationalize those decisions, to seek objectivity and lower uncertainty. When we distance ourselves from fear, we can unleash intuition — that decision-making capability that is beyond our understanding and comes from our unconscious brain. Intuition takes over more and more as we master emotional intelligence. We make choices that are not intellectual — we go beyond our intellectual ability.
Emotional intelligence takes us to a flow state. We get away from thinking and move towards intuitive doing, beyond our comfort zone beyond our fear and anxiety.
Additional Resources
Phil Johnson on LinkedIn: Mises.org/E4B_197_LinkedIn
Phil Johnson’s Zoom Calendar: Mises.org/E4B_197_Zoom
Videos from alumni of Phil Johnson’s MBL (Master Of Business Leadership) Program: Mises.org/E4B_197_MBL
UC Berkeley Study, EQ >IQ: Mises.org/E4B_197_Paper

196. Bart Vanderhaegen: How Criticism Fuels Knowledge Creation in Adaptive Entrepreneurial Firms

Success in business — serving customers well, and achieving growth in revenues and assets with a return on capital greater than its cost over the long term — is tied to knowledge-building, whereby everyone in the company learns more and more about specialized and advantaged methods of generating value for customers. Customer value fueled by knowledge-building flows back to the company as cash flow as a result of customers’ willingness to pay (which, itself, is a piece of knowledge to be discovered through testing and experimentation).
The uncertainty of the future means that a lot of knowledge-building must be achieved through experimentation — testing ideas to find out if they work or not. The earliest stage of this testing is bound up in the concept of criticism. Bart Vanderhaegen, a philosopher, epistemologist, and business consultant, explains the role of criticism to Economics For Business.
Knowledge Capsule
There is broad agreement on the need for adaptiveness in business.
It is becoming more and more accepted to view firms as operating within a complex adaptive system in which the interactions of millions of agents, and the resultant emergence of new outcomes and new system properties, require an acute sensibility regarding change — and speed of change — in the business environment and an ability to make adjustments in response or, if possible, in anticipation.
This adjustment process often goes by the name of adaptiveness.
What, exactly, is being adapted?
Bart Vanderhaegen’s analysis is that it is ideas that are being adapted and adjusted. He defines idea in this business context as a goal and a plan to achieve that goal — a desired end and the associated means. It is ideas that ultimately result in changing people’s behavior, changing product and service offerings, and changing markets.
If the idea is wrong, it will fail in achieving any desired change. To establish why or how an idea is wrong requires criticism.
Criticism is an artifact of the science of knowledge.
Critical rationalism views knowledge as useful information we use to solve problems we face. It can never be viewed as final — it’s conjecture about possible solutions that we are continuously challenging and criticizing to expose any error that we can subsequently correct to improve upon the solution, and to get closer to economic reality. That’s adaptation.
Firms actively seek the criticism of the market.
Once ideas have been activated as products and services, firms are comfortable with the criticism of the market. As Mises observed, the customer, by buying or not buying, returns a verdict on every business’s offering. And business welcomes the criticism, in the form of sales report, or market share analysis, or market research. The market is full of feedback, and in the case of non-buying, the feedback is criticism and triggers improvements or an adaptation of the plan.
In business, there tends to be less comfort with criticism in the pre-market stage, but it’s a necessary tool for refining options and making decisions.
In Bart’s way of saying it, the word criticism, when used in business, has “kind of a weird smell around it”. There’s a culture of what he calls justificationism. We are taught to project confidence bout business plans. Executives claim expertise in the domains for which they were hired. The boss is correct.
This is all misplaced. What we should be confident about is capacity to solve problems, and not be scared of making mistakes, but rather to be eager to adapt our knowledge to observed reality when it changes.
By utilizing criticism methodically, businesses can unleash its power.
The proper use of criticism is to criticize ideas and not persons. We always want to celebrate the owner of an idea, and grant them autonomy to accept or reject criticism. Bart’s three step method for business criticism is:
Start with the presentation of the idea by the idea owner. There should be the opportunity for a full and reasoned presentation. Questions of clarification can be asked, but no criticism at this step.Then follows the offering of criticism. It should be high quality, constructive and specific as to what elements are in doubt and why, and what can be improved. General opposition such as “That will never be accepted here” (which could be said of any idea) is not acceptable.The criticism session is completed with a consent stage, in which the idea owner indicates which criticisms he or she finds relevant and will act on to improve the idea, whether in ends or means or both. Consent is in the discretion of the idea owner and should not be the result of any pressure by critics, whatever their rank or status. There is no “softness” in this: there is a shared and passionate commitment to improve.
Successful adaptive businesses develop a positive culture of criticism.
It’s important to analyze and classify the prevailing firm culture. Some cultures will discourage or reject criticism as a method for improvement, especially those that are hierarchically organized and have a tradition of authoritarianism.
The appropriate culture values truth and values adaptiveness, and celebrates the identification of error as a successful step towards improvement. Bart called this culture a “tradition of criticism”, which sounds contradictory since the word tradition is usually associated with preserving the status quo; but a tradition of criticism implies a kind of stability around the practice of criticizing. People become comfortable with it, and try to become better at it, and are proud to be part of the path to betterment through criticism.
The Amazon 6-page memo system is a good example of the tradition of criticism. Idea owners are required to prepare a detailed memo describing the idea and the business case and this is submitted to a committee of reviewers in a dedicated meeting, escalating in rank towards the most senior management as the idea is vetted, improved, and increasingly strengthened. It’s a tradition and a part of the Amazon culture.
Such a culture is not initiated with an announcement or a campaign, but emerges organically as a universal tool for everyone in the firm to utilize.
Additional Resources
Pactify Management: PactifyManagement.com
Bart on Twitter: @B_Vanderhaegen
Bart’s podcast: Fallible Management (Anchor.fm/FallibleManagement)
Bart’s email: [email protected]

195. Tom Malengo on Brandjectory, An Innovative New Platform for Launching and Growing Entrepreneurial Businesses

A great benefit of the internet age is the capacity to accumulate, accelerate, and intensify connections between entrepreneurs, knowledge sources, investors, mentors, collaborators, and service providers. Businesses with a valid value proposition who are in the launch and early expansion phases can interconnect a network of powerful and qualified resources to support their growth. A good way to do so is to utilize a platform (another product of the internet age) designed for the purpose. Tom Malengo established a platform called Brandjectory to serve just this purpose for consumer packaged goods (CPG) startups.
Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights.
Brandjectory’s value proposition is to solve the problem of how to build an investor-ready business.
The purpose of a B2B business is to help customers achieve their own purpose. Brandjectory helps with the purpose of becoming investor-ready, the condition of qualifying for funding in the eyes of investors. The problem is multi-faceted, from having an investable value proposition, to having the systems and structure in place to qualify for investment, to overcoming the functional obstacles of expansion, to having access to investors, to having the capability to pitch effectively and persuasively. Brandjectory helps with all phases, for all stages of investable business from pre-market seed stage to post-market Series A where a proven business model and revenue stream represents the bar.
All knowledge is specialized: select and know your sector.
Brandjectory focuses on consumer packaged goods businesses, often identified by the acronym CPG. It’s a sector with open-ended innovation opportunities — e.g., how to make foods and beverages and cleaning products and pet products healthier — along with an identifiable set of obstacles to overcome, such as the cost and difficulty of securing and maintaining distribution in supermarkets and other retail channels. An investable business knows the available innovation gaps and has a practical knowledge of barriers and how to overcome them.
Define value in your sector with reachable target customers.
The Brandjectory system stresses the understanding of subjective value — that it’s an experience of the customer, and is defined by what they feel is important to them and how they feel a new brand will satisfy their need in that area of their life. Value demands an emotional connection, sustained over time. Too many founders, says Tom Malengo, CEO of Brandjectory, do not exhibit a full understanding of value. They are more focused on what’s new or different about their product, or on their recipe or ingredients. This is a functional perspective, and misses the emotional component. Tom’s technique in assessing a founder’s understanding of subjective value is a careful but intense questioning, driving towards a true focus on what’s important to consumers.
Value understanding must be translated into a value proposition.
A value proposition is a structured template for the communication of proposed value to the consumer, enabling them to recognize it. The value proposition must capture the emotional element of value — how consumers will feel better. It’s not just about good taste, for example, but the joy of consumption, the family sharing, the feeling of contributing to health rather than undermining health.
On econ4business.com, you can read about value propositions (Mises.org/E4B_195_Value), and watch the E4B value proposition design video (Mises.org/E4B_195_Video).
Potential investors will probe for the founder’s true understanding of value propositions — it’s a qualitative rather than quantitative assessment. A founder must be skilled and effective at communicating this understanding.
Investor-readiness also implies an identification of all the challenges to growth and how to overcome them.
Investor-readiness will vary by business stage. The state of readiness might encompass the capacity of the sales network, or of production processes, or the scalability, sustainability and security of the supply chain, or the strength of processes and systems, or the innovation pipeline, or the quality of the advisor group. Tom’s guidance to founders ensure that they know all the questions investors will ask, and leave nothing to chance in framing their answers.
The required knowledge-building is achieved through networking and connecting.
A major benefit of the Brandjectory platform is its network of advisors, industry experts, mentors, and investors. Founders can connect to them and meet them, and not just listen but also gather knowledge through questioning and discussion. Plugging in to a powerful knowledge network is less stressful than pitching and more conducive to learning.
The members of the network have a wide range of incentives. Investors can pick up information about trends and new ideas even if they don’t invest directly. Industry experts can sense the response to their information and knowledge sharing and get market feedback. Many mentors enjoy the sense of giving back to their industry and community after years of working. All entrepreneurs can, and should, assemble a network like this. Brandjectory is a convenient way to do it for CPG entrepreneurs.
It’s important to understand the role of knowledge in firm performance.
Tom Malengo says knowledge is power for entrepreneurs — the power to solve problems, address challenges and overcome obstacles. It can be a competitive advantage to gather more specialized knowledge than competitors and incumbents.
Professor Per Bylund sees specialized knowledge as solving the production problem (see Mises.org/E4B_195_Book) — the difficulty of initiating new economic production that no-one else has ever attempted, i.e., innovation.
Brandjectory takes the problem-solution approach to knowledge building. Entrepreneurs who confront a problem or issue or knowledge gap can ask the appropriate question of the appropriate expert or tap the experience of a more seasoned businessperson and benefit from the exchange, a kind of accelerated learning.
Brandjectory is a celebration of the all-American practice of entrepreneurship.
Tom Malengo views entrepreneurship as the fabric of civilized society, a tradition that is especially strong in America. Our first settlers and many of our founders were entrepreneurs, and the encouragement of new ideas from any and all sources, giving everyone the chance to pursue their commercial development and experience economic success is woven into our way of life.
An entrepreneur, as Tom sees it, is someone who refuse to tolerate the existing status quo and demands better and is willing to exert their own effort and expend their own resources to bring it about — a very Misesian view. Through Brandjectory, he intends to help and support all those in pursuit of betterment in CPG. His platform concept — where the business model is to invite entrepreneurs to join for a fee, with unlimited free access to the knowledge platform and expert network, no commissions, middleman dealmaker cuts, brokerage charges, retail markups, affiliate costs or any other “bite” — is pure support for aspirational growth companies.
Additional Resources
Brandjectory website: brandjectorynow.com
Tom Malengo on LinkedIn: Mises.org/E4B_195_LinkedIn

194. Hermann Morris: The Nail Hub as the Adaptive Entrepreneurial Method in Practice

Breakthrough theory becomes effective practice when it is successful applied by real-life entrepreneurs. The E4B entrepreneurial method is actualized by Hermann and Elizabeth Morris in the very distinctive business model for their brand, The Nail Hub.
Knowledge Capsule
The true purpose of a B2B business is to help your customers succeed.
While outside observers focus on transactions — how much does this business sell, what are its revenues? — entrepreneurial business owners and operators focus on customers and customer relationships. Revenues follow from relationships. This insight is critical, since it guides business model development.
Business-to-business models are especially responsive to relationship strategies. When a customer feels that the relationship with a supplier makes their business performance better, they can become a customer for life. That’s a recipe for strong and sustainable growth.
First, observe the ecosystem in which you operate, and identify gap opportunities.
Systems thinking is an important component of the entrepreneurial method. A firm is a component or a node in a network of interconnected services we can call an ecosystem. Hermann’s and Elizabeth’s ecosystem is the Nail Fashion industry. Nodes include salons and salon owners, the nail technicians (sometimes employees, sometimes independent contractors) who provide service to consumers in the salons, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, product manufacturers and suppliers (for nail gel, etc.), and product distributors.
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Hermann and Elizabeth were able to identify a number of gaps in the ecosystem. Many salon owners were enthusiastic about their industry but not well-trained or experienced in the basic economics of business. Many of the technicians were passionate about their trade, but not highly trained in the latest techniques and technologies and in product selection. There were aspects of marketing that were underdeveloped, such as audience segmentation. And there were inconsistencies between products in both quality and safety.
In the mind of the entrepreneur, these gaps are opportunities. The entrepreneurial question is: how best to fit in and contribute to the ecosystem. The business model response is determined by individual entrepreneurial orientation.
The beginning orientation was that of an operator.
Given their knowledge of both the high potential of the industry and the gaps to be addressed / problems to solve, the Morrises’ entry point was as an operator. They embarked upon the journey to design a differentiated salon experience with superior nail technique, better products, better trained technicians. They ran the salon with better business acumen (they both came from high-level corporate positions and were able to bring sophisticated operating and financial experience). They segmented with an unusual and especially comfortable in-salon appeal, and via location.
They were successful. There was a lot of learning, which Hermann identifies as overcoming pain points.
The next growth step comes from re-orientation to larger scale.
How could the Morrises scale their salon business? They thought through multiple openings (e.g., open and operate 20 salons), acquisition (acquire 20 salons), and franchising (sell franchises to multiple independent owners).
All of these alternatives would require new capability development: establishing standards and a repeatable business model, including a reliable financial model, designing a multi-unit system of supply chains, capital deployment, décor, training and location scouting, and a new kind of marketing to salon managers or franchisees.
The Morrises were reorienting to thinking as proprietors of a new kind of multi-division business. It’s a different orientation, seeing the same ecosystem from a different perspective.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth had the idea for a podcast to share her expertise and knowledge and passion for the industry. It was free business advice, free guidance, free technical training, teaching different aspects of running a salon and technical aspects for nail technicians. Its purpose was a service to consumers (better salon experiences), to technicians (better craftsmanship) and owners (better business operations). The podcast was called The Nail Hub. It generated a great positive reputation in the ecosystem and a lot of positive feedback. The knowledge that The Nail Hub podcast shared was enthusiastically welcomed.
The Nail Hub podcast feedback resulted in a further re-orientation.
The Nail Hub podcast was helping salon owners and those technicians who were independent contractors renting positions in salons to improve the way they ran their businesses: better management, better understanding of customer needs and segmentation, better approaches to pricing, revenue and profits, better techniques, and better products.
What if a podcast can become a business model? Hermann and Elizabeth developed an entirely new B2B services business model which could be summarized as “educate the industry on how to operate a business, and supply them with the highest quality products to fit their business”.
Importantly, the education is free to consume. The Nail Hub YouTube channel is free to access, and offers over 140 videos on every aspect of business operations, finances, equipment, products, and techniques. The videos are expensive to produce. The model is that the investment in education will be repaid through loyal customers buying the products that The Nail Hub offers for purchase.
The curation of products itself is a service. The Nail Hub has identified a distinctive set of criteria for product selection (health, safety, non-toxic ingredients, cruelty-free) and does the research and validation so that purchasers can be confident in their choices and tin he integrity of their promises to the end-consumer.
The products are not the lowest price, they are the highest quality. Salon owners who have not fully absorbed The Nail Hub’s education on consumer segmentation, pricing, and customer experience will not be a good fit within The Nail Hub’s customer set. The Nail Hub business model has a high internal consistency and integrity.
The Nail Hub has re-oriented to B2B service provider educating an entire industry to provide superior consumer experiences, better product quality and profitable operations — i.e., re-orienting from facing those challenges to helping others to face and overcome them.
One of the cornerstones of the B2B services model is authentic subject matter expertise.
The Nail Hub can help salon owners and nail technicians thrive through their independent action because Hermann and Elizabeth developed a deep subject matter expertise. They’ve been salon owners and faced all the developmental issues that owners face. They’ve trained nail technicians. They’ve evaluated salon equipment and they’ve committed their resources and time to researching high quality, innovative products that meet their highest standards. Hermann stresses that the arduous development of subject matter expertise is the necessary foundation for a trusted service business.
Another is to choose customers carefully.
The Nail Hub is making a substantial investment in their customers via their free training and education. The business model that they enable is specific: the highest standards, with the best trained operators, providing a reliably superior consumer experience. The pricing model is premium, which supports the use of the highest quality products and the provision of the highest quality salon environment. Race-to-the-bottom operators who pursue the lowest prices as a competitive edge are not a good fit in The Nail Hub ecosystem, and Hermann makes this a clear element of The Nail Hub’s B2B communications. Choose your customers to match your positioning.
The evaluation of the business model does not lie in conventional metrics.
When the business model is to invest in the success of customers, the conventional metrics of revenue, margins and annual profits are not the primary measures of success (although, of course, they must be acknowledged). The evaluation of the model comes via the feedback loops. Is the educational service welcomed? Does it result in better operations on the part of salon owners? Do salon owners and independent technicians become customers for life? Do product manufacturers clamor for entry into The Nail Hub’s curated product set? Are product trends — safe, non-toxic, healthy, etc. — moving in the desired direction?
This is the entrepreneurial ethic: make customers more successful, make the world a better place.
Additional Resources
“Evolving The Nail Hub Business Model” E4B Graphic (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_194_PDF
The Nail Hub YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/TheNailHub
The Nail Hub Website: TheNailHub.com