Entrepreneurs often start a business so they can work at what they love. But here's the rub: Business success usually comes from a focus on pleasing the customer, not pursuing your own bliss.
Two talented fashion designers learned this lesson the hard way on Lifetime network's new season of Project Runway All Stars. Here's what happened:
First, an assignment to design a cocktail dress for the Muppets' Miss Piggy to use promoting her new movie went awry for Mila Hermanovski. She designed a mod, 1960s-themed black-and-white dress, because, as she says: "That's my aesthetic."
The problem? Miss Piggy is more of a colorful personality. Also, runway gowns usually use eye-catching hues rather than black or white. Color works better in fashion magazine layouts, so a colorful dress gets the star more press.
Hermanovski was true to her aesthetic...but she failed to meet her client's needs. The gown was what she wanted to do, not what would work best for Miss Piggy. In the end, she remained in the competition, but just barely.
Apparently her fellow competitor Anthony Williams wasn't paying attention to his client either, as he had a similar flub in last week's episode. The assignment was to make a fashion-forward look using at least 50 percent of the clothing the designers purchased off New Yorkers they saw on the street. Williams put together a kicky ensemble, but only a small fraction of the fabric came from his man-on-the-street donors.
In the view of the judges -- also the designers' customer, in this case -- he failed to fulfill the commission. So despite his popularity with viewers, he was out.
It was a little surprising to see two designers in quick succession make this basic flub, taking their focus off the customer. After all, this is the All Stars show. All of these designers know their stuff and were previous Project Runway contestants.
But when they followed their own ideas instead of staying focused on what the customer wants, they were shown the door. It's always a tricky line to walk, as customers often come to you because they like your style. Even so, if you don't listen carefully to what those customers want, you can end up with no sale.
How does your business balance your passion with pleasing customers? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.