Why Most Businesses Work Backwards
When starting a business most people think they have to come up with an idea or product that no one has ever thought of before.
Then they spend months and months, and thousands of pounds crafting and recrafting this unique and beautiful product until they think it’s perfect.
Then and only then do they show it to the world and find out that actually no one wants to buy it.
These are the kinds of businesses that fail every day…
Wisdom from Dr Suess
The perfect example of this is in the film The Lorax. In this film the Once-Ler set’s off in search of the perfect material for his invention the “Thneed.” He searches far and wide and eventually comes across a big fluffy tree and cuts it down.
He then begins knitting the strangest and most convoluted garment he can imagine and stands out in the town square trying to sell it. He lists all the features and benefits and shows everyone how versatile and wonderful it is…but no one buys it.
After years of researching and making this new and unique product, and not being able to sell it, he then gives up and throws it over his shoulder.
Do you see how ridiculous this ideology is? It’s so ridiculous in fact, that even Dr Seuss thought to point it out to children.
Fortunately for the Once-ler the Thneed just so happens to land on someone’s head in the shape of a hat, and someone complements them on it. Other people see them complimenting it and ask where they got it from, and soon everyone is crowding around the Once-Ler’s shop and buying all the hats he has for sale…
In reality, hardly anyone is so lucky.
Let’s take another example of a business from that film.
After cutting down all the trees in the forest to make Thneeds, the whole city becomes polluted and horrible. The foreman at the Thneed factory, after a coughing fit, turns around anecdotally to his apprentice and says: “Man, I wish we had some clean air. That’d be a million dollar business!”
The apprentice then has the biggest “AHA!” moment in history and becomes a multi-millionaire selling bottles of fresh air.
You see how this business model works better? Smart Man Dr Suess…
The Best advice I ever Got
So why doesn’t the Thneed sell?
I’m going to give you the best piece of advice I ever got in business:
Your opinion doesn’t matter!
You are not your target audience, so what you think is unique and perfect is not necessarily what other people will think at all. This kind of thinking is a recipe for wasting your life and your talents.
Breaking down False Beliefs
So let’s break down these false beliefs and turn this business model on it’s head:
False Belief #1:
“When starting a business you have to come up with an idea or product that no one has ever thought of before.”
The problem with this belief is that, if no one has ever thought of it before, how do you know if people actually need it?
NASA spent millions of dollars developing a pen that could write in space, whilst the Russians simply used a pencil…
A much better idea is to find a market that already has lots of interest and create a product that fits in the same niche.
Go to any shop and look at any isle you want: toothpaste, dog food, mobile phones; there will be shelves and shelves of similar products all side by side. Why? Because one brand saw it was successful and jumped on board. Everyone needs toothpaste right?
Now that’s not saying that you can’t have a Unique Selling Point (USP), but your basic idea should be something you know already has a market where people are buying it.
False Belief #2:
“You need to spend months and months refining your product until it’s perfect before showing it to the world.”
First of all how do you know what’s perfect? If no one has ever seen it, you can’t have got any feedback from your target audience at all, and you are asking for failure.
Most people hold onto their ideas like they are babies, never wanting them to go out into the world because they are still young a vulnerable and they fear what people might actually think of them.
Well here’s a tip for free. Your first attempt will fail. Just like the in The Matrix “No one makes the first jump.”
The key to success in business is continuous improvement:
When starting out with a new business, create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) then release it to a trial audience and get their feedback. They will likely tear it apart and this is what will make Mk.2 100% better.
Look at any piece of software you own and see the version. It will likely be something like 5.2.15 or something ridiculous like that. Imagine if iOS had never release because they were still waiting for iOS 9…
So now can you see why the Thneed failed and bottled air succeeded?
The Once-Ler thought he knew what people wanted, spent years perfecting it, then tried to sell it and no one came.
O’Hare Air listened to his target market, found out what they wanted, and gave it to them. This is the secret to success.
No one needs a Thneed…