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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Be The Customer

Joe Dannis is a success because he is part of the community he is serving. He is an inside trader. He knows so much about his customers that he is able to compete with the huge publishers.    More...

Key Question:

A: 

Be the customer you are trying to serve.

Sign language is its own language and there is much controversy about how deaf individuals learn best. Joe has taken a progressive stance. He believes the deaf should learn their natural language - sign language - before they learn English. You might say he is up against the establishment. However, he attended Gallaudet, the country's most advanced university for the deaf and he is fortified by research from the Salk Institute and by the results of his teaching methods. Therefore, he stays the course for revolution.

Q: As a veteran business owner, how does Joe stay close to the customer?

A: His partner. You could say that Ben is imbedded with the customers. As a professor himself he is the type of person who can choose the teaching materials he wants to use in the classroom. Big companies spend millions of dollars trying to find out what customers want. As a small business owner you probably think you know what your customers are thinking because you work with them day-to-day. On the other hand, most of us don't ask our customers the hard questions.

Owner of Record Technology, Don MacInnis, was really scared when the CD entered the marketplace because he presses vinyl records. He turned his total attention to his devoted customers and they told him, "You have a great product. There's no better vinyl record manufactured anywhere in the world, but we feel it can be better,' because there are places that are making a thicker, heavier record, a record that--the typical record weighs about 110 grams, and there were places that were making phonograph records that were 180 grams, which is about 50 percent heavier. And our customers were saying, `If we had an RTI pressing on a 180-gram record that would be just great for us, because we could really sell that, and we would also be willing to pursue more licenses for product.' "

Should you wait to listen to your best customers until competitors with a new technology nearly eat your lunch? No, no, no. That is arrogant, solipsistic and just plain stupid. Don't ever wait to dig into a customer's mind. Instigate a plan whereby you ask two questions on a regular basis. Number 1: Did we give you exactly what you expected? Number 2: What can we be doing for you that we are not now doing? This takes courage but you've got that or you wouldn't be a business owner. Now you have to find time to do it.

When Don took time to listen to his customers he realized they were inventing his next product for him. He took action but he didn't go so fast that he sacrificed quality. He said, "It took us nine months of experimentation and tinkering and so forth to get the product to meet our standards." Don had a "Name Our New Product" contest for the employees. The winning name turned out to be HQ-180 which of course stands for high quality and 180 grams in weight which is what the customers asked for. Can't you just see all 37 employees watching the first HQ-180 being stamped onto their creation? That should give you goose bumps. People love being challenged. Don said to his team, "can we do this?" Well, the answer was yes and the company is growing and the HQ-180 is keeping Record Technology on the top of the heap.

Think about it

How close are you to your customer? What can you do to get closer? when was the last time you asked your customers if you delivered what they expected and what you can be doing for them that you are not now doing?

Clip from: Dawn Sign Press: The Pain of Starting

Joe Dannis, California's Small Business Person of the Year

San Diego: What are the most commonly used languages in the USA? Answer: English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, French, German, then ASL. Yes, ASL. American Sign Language.

No less than 500,000 and as many as 2.5 million people use ASL every day. In this episode of the show language is subtlety transformed into hand, finger, body and facial combinations.

Take away any one of the basic senses and deep-seated creative power within the human mind is enlivened and focused interiority awakens. With today's micro-technologies, the deaf and blind are teaching us all about subtleties within language and our skills to communicate it. Here we meet extraordinary people in the midst of a revolution.

Joe Dannis is an advocate for American Sign Language. The Small Business Person of the Year from the State of California, Joe Dannis started DawnSignPress in 1979. He has always been out on the edge... being the first to advocate something new. Joe and his team publish materials to teach sign language for the deaf. Although he publishes videos and books for both children and adults, his biggest customers are schools and universities that offer courses in American Sign Language (ASL).

Today you'll meet Joe Dannis. He is one tough businessman, but he remembers nine very lonely years in the beginning. If he had to do it all over again, he probably would not. Learn from someone who has been over the hot coals and whose wisdom runs deep.

Go to all the key ideas and videos...

Dawn Sign Press

Joe Dannis, Founder

6130 Nancy Ridge Drive
San Diego, CA 92121
8586250600

Visit our web site: http://www.dawnsign.com/

Office: 8586250600

Business Classification:
Publishing

Year Founded: 1979

Be The Customer

The Lightbulb

Hattie:  (In the Studio) Joe is a success because he is part of the community he is serving. He is an inside trader. He knows so much about his customers that he is able to compete with the huge publishers. Sign language is its own language, and there is much controversy about how deaf individuals learn best. Joe has taken a progressive stance. He believes the deaf should learn their natural language, sign language, before they learn English. You might say he is up against the establishment. However, he attended the country's most-advanced university for the deaf, Gallaudet, and he is fortified by research from the Salk Institute and by the results his teaching methods achieve, therefore, he stays the course for revolution. Joe is one of those business owners who is small now because the marketplace hasn't caught up with him. I predict when it does, he'll be small no more.

JOE: All my life, I have wanted to own a business because of my father. My father's family, his father, his parents, uncles, cousins, and on my mother's side, her parents, brother – all of them owned their own businesses. That's Alabama and Texas.

And they were in the clothing business, jewelry business, the hotel business. They were all successful people, except my father. He was the one. They told him that he was –you know, it's around 1932 – `You're deaf, you can't own a business.' That's what people told him. And my Dad was a great golf player. If only he knew he could be a pro golf player, but back then, they told him `You can't.' So my Dad said, `I'm deaf, I can't, but you can. You can do it. Set up an ice cream business at a hotel, something like that.' So all my life, I asked about what kind of business do I want to get into?

He's always been willing to loan me the money, but what do I want to do?

I didn't know. I knew I wanted to get into business, no question. That's when I started in publishing.

I wanted to start real small, whereas other businesses could start with a lot of money and a lot of competition. But in publishing, there was not that much competition. And my dad really encouraged me. But now my dad says, `You work too much. Stop! Come home!'

HATTIE: Does he know about you being the Small Businessperson of the Year from the state of California this year?

JOE: Oh, yes. Very proud. He's very proud of me.

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