Jul 11, 2016
If you’re going to start a product-based business and don’t have a clear product development strategy in place, you’re behind the eight-ball already. That’s because any successful product has to be designed to meet a very distinct need within the niche it’s targeting. That’s the conventional wisdom. But my friend Ben Dolgin-Gardner is anything but conventional.
He is one of those guys who lives a lifestyle that goes against the grain of what most of society embraces. When it comes to his business, he founded a company - in China - in the technology product space - without a clear product development strategy - and has become very successful.
That was a story I wanted to hear, so I invited Ben to chat with me for this episode of Unconventional Genius.
A 900 mile bike ride across Europe - it’s a snapshot of Ben’s lifestyle
Ben is anything but predictable. That’s because in his own mind there are very few boundaries. He’s willing to consider anything and even attempt anything. One example is an idea he had to take a 900 mile bike trip across Europe, and to do it in just over a week. Here's an example of how relaxed he lives his life - As he flew to the location he chose to start the bike trek, he didn’t even have a bicycle with him.
Ben expected he’d be able to pick up a second-hand bike in decent shape in a shop in Berlin. He was right. Except that the bike chain on it broke the first day. It was an unexpected surprise that led to a new friendship with the guy who picked him up on the side of the road.
Ben’s retelling of the story is so relaxed, so unpretentious. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t seem to get ruffled by anything. Listen to hear how an 80 year-old quasi drunk guy with a garage full of meth fixed his bike and got him on his way. As you listen, pay attention to Ben’s attitude about life. It demonstrates the attitude required to do the kind of things Ben does.
The only white guy in China who could speak English and understand Western markets
Ben has always been interested in starting his own business, but he didn’t have much direction as to what that meant when he first started out. He’d spent some time in China his sophomore year of college through Study Abroad. He decided that would be a good place for him to base his newly conceived digital electronics business.
He was right in a number of ways. Having grown up in the United States, he understood western culture and business practices, which was a distinct advantage in the Chinese business environment. He also had a certain type of hustle that helped him get things done in China. With no clue what he was going to do, he decided to jump on the mp3 player bandwagon. He developed a concept, began selling the concept to online sales reps, got a big deal, and had to scramble to get his products created after the fact.
Making product development strategy his strong suit - on the manufacturing side
One of the things Ben discovered is that trying to build a company that does everything from the factory to sales, to customer support is a LOT of work and very complicated. He made the decision to focus on the product development and manufacturing side of the chain. That was an ingenious decision. His ability to source and manufacture in China, along with his ability to speak English natively to work with companies on the distribution and sales side proved invaluable.
He's been in China since 2004, so he’s got an extensive network of contacts that make his core competitive advantage one of understanding what the customer wants, understanding the local infrastructure, and getting things done quickly and to specs. Those skills have been a powerful way for him to be the source many brands come to in order to develop their own custom products.
Setbacks also present an opportunity. Stay focused on that
One of the things I admire most about Ben is that he seems unflappable. He lives in the moment, taking things as they come and doing so without tons of structure in his life. That’s something I need more of in my life. So I asked Ben for his advice for people like me, people who want to learn how to better live in the moment. Here’s a handful of things he said…
I invite you to meet my friend, Ben Dolgin-Gardner, on this episode.
If you are with a consumer technology company planning to launch a new product at CES or are even looking ahead to CES 2019, the Max Borges Agency can help you succeed. To learn more, check out: www.maxborgesagency.com.
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