The secret to entrepreneurial success is simple:
Look for gaps in different industries and sectors of the business world. Think of possible solutions—the means by which you can fill these gaps. Snoop around and see if anybody else has noticed the same gap. Research these competitors and then offer a solution with superior performance, a lower price, or a better value.
Always keep in mind, price and value are two different animals.
I discovered this foundational business practices in elementary school, but every time I started a new business, my mom would shut it down.
Let me share two examples.
Even in our current era of fiber optics and high-speed internet, iPhones and social media, people are still more likely to read a book recommended by a friend. People talking about the hottest new book creates a buzz, and the buzz spreads like a virus by word of mouth. Second graders are no different. Johnny reads a new book by Judy Blume or Roald Dahl or Maurice Sendak, and he tells Beatrice about it. She reads it and tells Mary. Before you know it, Johnny has started an underground movement. The very foundation of the library at W.P. Scales would quake as spoiled children rushed into the library clamoring, “I want it now!”
I was an enterprising youth, and I quickly made two very important realizations: 1) the librarian would let you check out a book more than once without returning it and 2) she would tell you who had the most popular books checked out.
“Why were these insights important?” you ask.
Once I knew the current keeper of the latest Buzz Book (BB), I could use my formidable powers of persuasion to talk him or her into letting me have it next. I was such a nice guy that I would even save these little lambs the trouble of taking the BBs back to the library. I would do it for them! then check it out in my own name.
Now, here’s the crux. Pay very close attention. When the other children asked about the BB, who had it? Yours truly. I’d check it out for weeks at a time. Who knows how I explained myself: “I’m a slow reader.” [Not true.] “My mother died.” [Not true.] “I’m astonished by Potter’s complex layering of metaphorical language and Peter Rabbit’s religious and socio-political nuances that she uses to challenge Gnostic heresy.” [I’m not even sure what that means.]
What matters is that I persuaded my peers and colleagues to pay me dimes and quarters—depending on demand and inflation—to rent the library books from me for a day or two. My piggy bank was filling up fast.
I’d barely even put the finishing touches on my system for keeping track of who had which book and for how long when my mom discovered my newfound wealth and snuffed out my startup. She thought it was unfair to the other kids. Nonsense. Why should I be penalized for capitalizing on their sluggishness? Early bird gets the worm. Fast talker gets the good books.
I nursed my wounds in secret, and cooked up another scheme. You can’t keep me down for long.
When I saw a new opportunity, I pounced.
Origami was all the rage at school. I knew how to make a throwing star, and no one else did. I charged a premium for this expertise. The acoustic tiling in the classrooms rained money. I’d stockpiled $21 in an old pencil box before my mom found me out again. Sweet Child of Thor! Why couldn’t she just let me do my thing? I was racketeering my way to Fun-Dip and baseball card paradise, and all she could think about was unselfishness and friendship and sharing. Lame-O.
I work for a marketing, branding, and advertising firm now. I’ve joined Entrepreneurs of Knoxville. I’m like a predator hiding in the tall grass. I will make piles of filthy lucre, and you know what I’ll do with it?
Buy some candy, pay off my parents’ mortgage, and find creative ways to give away the rest. My mom was is one of the least selfish people you’ll ever meet. She loves to give. Giving is one of her passions. One of my passions is making her cry with happiness. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make my mama cry. I’m going to make her proud.
Sorry that just got so sentimental, but seriously, go make your mama proud. Start a smart business and change people’s lives. Be unselfish and share what you earn.
That is all.