Creating value by helping consumers save their resources — reducing the amount of money, time and labor required to perform tasks — has been at the forefront of entrepreneurial innovation for the last century. Laborsaving inventions, from nail guns to dishwashers to suitcases on wheels, have enabled us to accomplish more with less work. Microwave ovens, email and cars allow us to cook, communicate and travel quickly. Vacuum sealers, do-it-yourself home improvement and online bill paying save money. Many modern innovations were developed to create value through conservation, and they have changed the way we live.
A small business that creates value through conservation can attract a wide audience and form new consumer habits, developing a dedicated customer base in the process. The economic landscape is filled with examples: Many restaurants rely on delivery for a significant portion of their monthly revenue. Auto repair shops have found ways to take the mechanic to the customer, avoiding the hassle of making an appointment and bringing in the car. And almost every small business has found ways to serve customers online, reducing or eliminating the need to travel or wait.
What can your business do to create value through conservation? What processes can be automated? What products can be delivered or replenished automatically? What needs do your customers have that are not being met? With a little creativity, your business can differentiate itself by using the skill of empathy to free customers from chores, save them money or decrease demands on their time.
Sarah’s Suiting Service
Many men hate wearing suits. It’s not that they mind looking good, it’s the work involved with purchasing, tailoring, choosing and caring for clothes that becomes a time-consuming chore.
A well-crafted men’s suit is an investment, and it’s not necessarily an inexpensive one, so getting the right suit made the right way is an important first step. There's a wide range of styles and fabrics to choose from. The way the suit is constructed has a significant impact on comfort and durability. Once the suit is chosen, a man also needs shirts that fit, matching ties, belts, shoes and other accessories. Knowing what’s in style is another part of the process, and few men care to keep up with the dictates of fashion magazines.
Once all these hurdles have been jumped, there’s the upkeep. Shoes must be polished. Suits and shirts must be cleaned and pressed. Men must remember what ties go with which shirts and which suits … and the shoes … brown? Black? And then there’s travel — packing, folding, taking all the right things — the whole process just turns into one giant pain the closet.
Sarah decided to create a service that tackles all these jobs for men who have neither the time nor the inclination to do this work themselves. She begins each client relationship with a lengthy interview covering how a man wants to appear, how often he wears his suits, his travel schedule, cleaning preferences, and so on. After the interview, a complete set of measurements is taken and a password-protected online account is created.
From this point on, the entire wardrobe is in Sarah’s hands. She works within a set budget to buy the clothes that are needed, adhering to each man’s own personal preferences while taking into account new trends in menswear. She puts suit/tie/shirt ensembles together, placing each on specially marked hangers that indicate which pieces work well together. Each client only has to choose one set of hangers at a time — no more worrying about what goes with which.
Her delivery dry cleaning service picks up and drops off on a customized schedule to ensure that each client always has plenty of available options. Customers can use their private online accounts to request cleaning or pressing outside of the regular schedule, so stains and repairs can be taken care of quickly.
Sarah’s clients can also use the online account to let her know when clothes begin fitting improperly. If pants need to be let out or taken in, for example, a new measurement is recorded and entered into the database, and appropriate tailoring performed.
When a client has to travel, Sarah's assistant stops by the house and chooses whatever clothes are appropriate for both the destination and the duration of the trip. She then packs everything, carefully folding each piece, ensuring clients arrive with everything they need.
Her clients save time and labor, of course, but also money; her relationships with local clothing stores and cleaners enable her to ask for discounts that she can pass on to her clients. But most importantly, her clients look their best — better, perhaps, because they have one less thing to worry about.
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