How to Succeed In Any Business

Business & Strategy

Yesterday, we were privileged to take a rare Monday off and visit the zoo with our best friends.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I couldn’t help but think about all of the things I noticed they were doing wrong from a business perspective. Now—they’ve been around for decades and I’m sure they’re doing just fine.

But even for all the fun I had, there a few “simple wins” they could have implemented which would have had me leaving to a different tune than the one I was humming.

In this case, the things that bothered me were:

Most of the animals were put up 30-40 minutes before closing time
Nearly all of the drink/snack counters were closed probably an hour or more before closing

Hear me out: Neither of those things are the end of the world. And we were privileged to use our friends passes for the day, so we didn’t even have to pay! BUT—it’s the principle.

I’d be writing an entirely different post, for one thing!

But this led down the path it usually does for me… if I started a zoo…

Fortunately, no domain names were bought that day, and I went immediately into the hypothetical. I began thinking of what a great zoo experience would be like.

For one thing, most certainly, the animals would stay out until closing time and the drink stands—all of them—would stay open until the last person is out of the park. (I paid 10 bucks a cup to get $1 refills, and just wanted another refill, dangit.)

I thought about some other ideas, like:

Having an expert in that type of wildlife always available at each enclosure (or maybe someone assigned to a similar set)
A limited-availability guided tour experience, showing you behind the scenes of the zoo
Better, more obvious signage around closures and event times (that was a problem, too, as they closed the aquarium 30 minutes prior to closing time but didn’t tell you to “plan your visit” until you saw the sign showing it was closed)
Over-the-top friendliness and helpfulness to make sure you have a great experience, etc.

And all of that led to what I want to leave you with: How to be successful in any business. It’s a really simple formula.

Decide what industry/vertical/product/service you’re going to be in. (Bonus points if it’s something people already spend money on anyway.)
Discover what people HATE the most about their experiences with it
Create simple solutions to those problems (ideally, choose 1-3, 5 at most)
Loudly market your widget as the one that solves those problems.

What’s cool is, in some industries, you can do this even if you only solve for one of these problems.

For example, in our web design business, we do a lot of things well. I think we build great, functional websites that look good and make our customers’ money.

But there’s one thing people hate about working with web designers/marketing companies: the communication is terrible.

So, we fixed that problem and talk about it everywhere. It’s our main “feature,” yet has nothing to do with websites. A runner-up would be how we handle project management. We have a tight system that customers tell us they love, once they experience it.

Need to pivot in your business? As the market changes, so do people’s experiences. Keep a pulse on what people hate, make sure you solve those problems, and you’ll win.

For example, 37signals. They make a product called Basecamp, which I love. It’s been around over 20 years now and played a part in ushering in the SaaS (Software as a Service) business model.

But then every piece of software moved to a subscription model (even software that doesn’t make sense for one, like Basecamp does). So, sensing and feeling that frustration, they created a new brand called ONCE (once.com) building software you buy one time and even get all the code to customize it yourself.

Simple. An entire new business, already making millions in profit out of the gate, on the premise of solving ONE frustrating problem: Some software shouldn’t be a subscription.

We make business a lot harder than it needs to be.

Jun 18, 2024

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Hey, I'm Steve — a Christian, entrepreneur, thinker, and creator. Thanks for stopping by!

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