Business Week ran a story on community colleges in this week’s edition that reminded me of this principle.
When you think of a community college, how large of a target market do you think of? Twenty miles? Fifty miles? A hundred miles? My guess is that you probably can’t imagine that many people would drive more than an hour or two to get to a community college. I’m with you. After all, the word, "community," would tend to indicate a shorter geographical target market.
So, if you were going to recruit new students to your community college, how many of you would ever think of going to someplace like, let’s say, Vietnam to recruit? Yes, you read correctly. Vietnam. In fact the lead paragraph in this article talks about a recruiter from Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming (yes, Powell, Wyoming) going to visit the International High School in Ho Chi Minh City and landing a student "Gracie" Thienan Nguyen.
Does that surprise you? Probably. Why? Because most of us tend to limit our ideas about what’s possible based on what we think or have experienced. Yet, as soon as someone suggests an out of the box idea it often makes complete sense. In this case, for community colleges, a foreign student brings more revenue (usually between two and ten times the revenue a local does) and a more multi-cultural presence to the campus. As for the foreign student, attending a community college allows them an easier opportunity to enter the American educational system and a chance to get used to living in America before entering a four-year university–if that’s their educational goal.
However, regardless of whether you like the idea of community colleges recruiting from other continents, the point is that most of us would never have come up with that idea on our own. Yet that one idea has been and will continue to be another source of significant revenue for a lot of community colleges around our nation.
So, back to your business. Do you tend to think of all of the new streams of revenue for your business all by yourself? Do you tend to limit your ideas of what products or services you might offer, or what markets you might enter, based on what you think is possible? Or what you’ve experienced?
If you do, may I remind you that there are always more opportunities out there for growth than any of us can imagine alone. So who can you bring alongside you to help you think of ideas outside of your box?
P.S. We all have built in limitations. My bubble was recently burst when I heard Dan Kennedy talk about a dentist who does his advertising in "In-flight Magazines." Think about that one :-)