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Use Curiosity and Questions to Improve Your Business Model

Apr 21, 2008
Mr. Ray Hughes is a native of the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea. There he learned to be an outstanding golf caddy. He served up to two golfers at a time by carrying their bags and providing advice.

Based on how much they liked his service, he could hope to get additional jobs from the same golfers. If one pair of golfers wanted to start early and another pair late, he could potentially carry four bags a day.

Unfortunately, the winter weather in this native land is bad enough to deter golfers, and work is scarce then. This way of serving golfers on the Isle of Man was his original business model.

Mr. Hughes decided to improve his business model. He realized that if he could find a place where there were lots of golfers and good year-round weather, he could earn more money. He decided to move to the Monterey peninsula in California, home to many famous golf courses including Pebble Beach. The temperature is moderate there year round, and winter weather brings mild rain in which golfers will often play.

Because of the quality of these courses, golfers fill them from dawn to dusk. As a result, he could work more often. Further, the prices for playing are very high. Golfers are interested in having a good experience and value their caddies more highly than on the Isle of Man.

As a result, his income from each golfer also rose. The main drawback was that the cost of living is very high in that area, especially for housing.

The pro shops at these courses often receive requests for caddies, and encourage golfers to make their own arrangements. The pro shops usually refer such requests to caddies who have been praised by other golfers. Because so many players told the pro shops they were pleased with Mr. Hughes, he was often recommended.

These introductions became the basis of his next business model innovation. Many of the callers wanted to have more than one caddy. Could he help them?

Mr. Hughes is a good judge of golfers and caddies. He inquired about the golfers who would be visiting and matched the golfers with compatible caddies. For example, an inexperienced golfer might be helped by a caddy who had a low-key personality and experience as a teaching pro to help the duffer navigate the course more pleasantly and successfully.

As a result of helping other caddies get jobs, they also favored him with referrals in turn. That further increased the number of bags he could carry in a year.

Also, those who liked the caddies Mr. Hughes had assembled for them would often pay him extra for the service, even though he asked for no more pay. The pro shops heard favorable comments about these services as well, and referred larger parties to him.

Mr. Hughes is a very intelligent, inquisitive, and interesting man to converse with, and he quickly learned a lot about the golfers who visited these courses. Many of them were attending business conferences at the Pebble Beach resorts. Almost all of the conference sponsors used travel agents and meeting planners to arrange for meeting and sleeping rooms, meals, and other resort services.

Mr. Hughes asked the golfers and the resorts whether they would be willing to let him play the role of travel agent for these occasions. The resorts and many conference sponsors who had played with him were happy to do so.

Naturally, Mr. Hughes still organized the caddies, while adding a major source of income. At this point, he overcame the high cost of living in the area through expanding his role from being a person solely providing a physical service to someone who was also helping make business conferences more successful.

The last time I saw Mr. Hughes, he mentioned that he had added another service. He could now arrange and book business conferences and vacations around the world at top resorts, and, naturally, arrange for golf and wonderful caddies.

As you can see from this example, Mr. Hughes changed every aspect of his initial business model. He continues to work as a golf caddy, but does so in California rather than on the Isle of Man, changing "where" he does his work.

He added services by helping arrange meetings, vacations, and caddies, thus changing "what" he does and "who" does it by involving the other caddies and resorts.

These new services mean working in the evenings as well as during the day, which changes "when" he works. "Why" changed too. People hire him to add value to their meetings, in addition to helping with their putts, club selection, and the weight of their bags.

His income has gone from being circumscribed by the weather and how many bags he could carry to being limited by his circle of satisfied customers and his ability to learn new ways to serve them, changing "how much" he receives. Notice that his California conference customers pay no more for these services than they did before, even though they benefit more.

How can you use your curiosity and questions to continually improve your business model?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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