Stuff the Dinosaurs

Keep up won’t you – most websites that promote ‘how to successfully start and run your own business’ are sponsored by big companies and government bodies and written by people that are in jobs and have never started their own business. The advice is so yesterday. It is stuff from antiquity that belongs in a museum like my hopeless, but suitably ancient for a museum, agent – Tony Robinson OBE.

Most entrepreneurs I’ve met are looking for opportunities to make money all the time. If they followed the advice on these start up websites they wouldn’t just copy stuff and they’d be too late in getting the product or service to market and the opportunity would have gone.

Look at Loubi (Christian Louboutin to you), if he hadn’t read an article about a slashed out shoe with a red line, then thousands of rich women around the world wouldn’t have fallen off his killer heels to, legs in the air, show off his signature red soles.

Dear reader and fan, I want you to take a look at the mind of an entrepreneur. Let’s take one successful one, Stefan Topfer, Editor of this Small Business Blog and one unsuccessful one, the aforementioned aberration, Tony Robinson OBE. They have two things in common; they’re both badly dressed (fleeces – urgh) and they look for business opportunities all the time.

The Recycling Opportunity

So, yesterday, Robinson rang Topfer and the conversation went like this:

Robinson: I’ve just seen on the BBC News site that a scientist has proven that giant dinosaurs could have warmed the earth with their flatulence.
Topfer: Ja – I mean, so?
Robinson: Well, where is the equivalent place today where hundreds of dinosaurs, produce masses of hot air?
Topfer: In your House of Commons and House of Lords?
Robinson: Precisely and why will this supply of huge volumes of hot air continue ad infinitum?
Topfer: Would that be because it is mainly a boys club eating vast quantities of posh nosh provided by the City and the top 100 CEOs and one or two media moguls.
Robinson: Yeah that and their humongous expense accounts that they can spend on Big Macs and pasties. It makes you feel good to know that we can now recycle all that dinosaur fuel for the benefit of the people.
Topfer: Ja, I mean nein, I mean how?
Robinson: You’re fab at technology, do the math and turn Parliament into a massive great hot air heater channelling warmth into the council housing, parks, stations and shop doorways where those with no dosh to pay for heating live.

I won’t carry on – as Topfer told Robinson never to speak to him again. The point is that here are two dinosaurs discussing a business opportunity that utilises a source of natural energy that has been available for thousands of years. There’s nothing original here apart from the possible opportunity.

Stuff to ignore

So ignore the stuff on websites that is ‘conventional business guidance’. ‘How to come up with a great business idea?’, ‘How to pitch your idea to investors?’, ‘Getting finance’ ‘There’s a business in you’, ‘What needs to be in your business plan?’, ‘Get a mentor from a Bank or Corporate’ and ‘How to sell’. the enterprise essentials are much less complicated and far more common sense and natural than this guidance.

Most successful entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed haven’t done any of the things that are regarded as ‘good business practice’. Most don’t like borrowing money, especially from banks. Their business planning is always in their head. Most of them are action rather than words people. They often copy and improve other people’s ideas and activities like crazy. The point is that time is money and opportunities come and go and they can’t be wasting time on this theoretical business stuff.

Instead, my advice to a start up, from my award winning series of entrepreneur interviews (see my book ‘Stripping for Freedom’) is:

Look for what customers want and are buying that you’d relish providing too.
Then, preferably by bootstrapping, check that you can afford to produce it as a product or service.
Then test market your product or service with its ‘twist’, like Louboutin’s red sole or, more likely, with an additional service that the competition aren’t providing.
Then from what you have learned launch your new business always remembering that you may need more products and services or even businesses to make the earnings you need to make.

Let’s Twist Again

This ‘copying and improving with a twist’ is important to the success of many entrepreneurs.

For example, the unique ‘twist’ that Stefan Topfer achieves with WinWeb is that he is absolutely passionate about beating the global competition not just by great cloud software and infrastructure but with exceptional customer service too. His customer service people are mentors. He’ll sack people that ‘sell’ his products and services as he believes in the customer buying what they choose that is absolutely right for them.

The great news is that everyone starting a business on their own can provide their own ‘twist’, a unique level of service, to support a product or service that customers already understand, want and need. Just get your offer out there as quickly as you can after testing it.


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