So What Is It You Do Around Here?


Thursday, 8.32pm

Sheffield, U.K

Where there’s muck there’s brass. – Yorkshire expression

I’ve been finding it hard to work out what strategy you should use to try and make a career change.

Or, for that matter, a change in strategic direction, a change in your product mix or a change in marketing strategy.

Here’s the problem…

You’ve spent many years getting good at doing something – marketing, computing, accounting.

Now let’s say you want to start a business but are not sure exactly what to do.

Should you do something that you already know?

Or should you try something completely different?

If you’re selling a particular product or service should you try to branch out and add more things to your portfolio?

On the one hand, you know what needs doing, you know your market and you should be able to go out there and talk to the right people about what you do.

But, if you enter a different market maybe what you know will give you an edge and you could do really well there.

What to do?

The first thing is to stop thinking in terms of you and what you can do.

Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, has come up with a theory called Jobs To Be Done.

The idea here is that when we have a problem we reach out and find something that will help us solve that problem.

In essence, we hire people and things to help us with the problem we have.

You hire a computer to help you get work done.

You hire shoes so you can walk around.

If your computer or shoes are rubbish you fire them and go look for something else.

So this theory says that everyone and every business has Jobs To Be Done and if you can figure those out then you can sell to them.

Is this a useful model?

I’m not sure yet.

Is there something more behind the fairly obvious bit that people and businesses have things they need to do?

The more I think about this the less useful it seems as a general principle.

As always, everything depends on the specifics – on context.

Many years ago, I was sat on the floor of a room surrounded by invoices.

Hundreds of them.

I was trying to get them organised for some kind of report and as I sat, in a sea of paper, it became clear we needed a system.

So we looked at our options and bought the cheapest one that seemed to do what we wanted.

We had a job to do but, more importantly, the job was mucky and hard the way we were doing it now.

That’s why we hired the system.

Not to do a job but because we were tired of shovelling shit.

The theory also struggles to explain what happens at holidays.

You could argue that one of your jobs is to turn the little people in your house into insatiable consumers of mass produced goods.

Or… in reality lots of people look at something and go “ooooh… shiny…..” and buy it.

Maybe the job they have to get done is get a dopamine rush.

Then there’s the sensible approach where you actually save someone time or money so they buy your stuff.

So, coming around to change…

  1. Do you create attractive, shiny things?
  2. Do you save people time and money?
  3. Do you do a hard mucky job that no one else really wants to do?

If you do 1, then you’re probably in control.

People like J.K Rowling or Kardashian variants don’t sell on reason but on desire.

The second option sounds plausible but it’s actually really hard to sell savings to people.

It might seem like a no-brainer but most people have the brains to realise that a no-win no-fee deal is probably for suckers.

As Warren Buffett says if you don’t know in the first ten minutes who the patsy is then you’re the patsy.

And then for the rest of us… we get paid for shovelling up the muck.


Karthik Suresh

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