I had an interesting conversation with another pilot a few weeks back. The kind of chat that causes you to think. He had been to a conference with the featured speaker being Ray Kroc years ago. Someone had asked Mr. Kroc "how's the hamburger business?". The reply was surprising. We're not in the hamburger business, we're in the real-estate business. If you notice, most McDonald's restaurants are in important, well placed locations. The franchisees are in the hamburger business, but the corporation seems to make its money from the fees and rent generated from their real-estate holdings. (I can't verify this conversation, since it's second-hand, but it still caused me to think about my own business).
I wracked my brain to figure out what the basic purpose was for Pilot Ball Caps. Do we just sell ball caps? We're not selling them to generate a profit from shipping (as many companies do). We're not selling anything that's not related to professional aviators and pilots, so that limited my view. The stories I get back from my customers are fascinating. Wide ranging, from general aviation pilots to retired airline pilots...to World War II pilots who flew all manner of historic aircraft in interesting and dangerous situations. Navy and Air Force pilots from the Viet-Nam and Korean wars. And (like me) the Cold War, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.
Then it came to me. Pride. Esprit de Corps. Memories. Valor. The things that my customers all share, is a desire to remember, to acknowledge their accomplishments. And sometimes to share those memories with other pilots, aviators, friends or family members.
I may be selling ball caps, but my product and purpose is a memory, a proud moment that may be gone, but never forgotten. It's that purpose that keeps me in it. There's no real profit in it, so I guess I get the same thing that my customers get. Pride. Satisfaction in a job well done or knowing that someone can take a trip back memory lane with their son, daughter, wife or grand father. I just provide the symbol of their journey. Just another ball cap. But it's theirs and they earned it. And they found it at pilotballcaps.com . I guess we aren't just another online vendor. And I share in that pride.