Source vs. outlet

It’s worth remembering that money is not always being made at the source. Just because you create, build, assemble… that’s where the thing to be sold is made, but it’s only in commodities like crude oil where the source is the point of maximum cash conversion. In many other cases, the outlet is where you get the most bucks for your bang.

Which again is just a paraphrase of the old mantra: know who your buyers are, know their needs, build a direct relationship, etc. etc. Even if your source doesn’t spew out a commodity, it doesn’t mean it’s valuable right from the start. Increasingly more stuff is less valuable to more people. Ignore this at your own peril.

Trampling paths, building highways

The first is what amateurs do. Since it’s only to solve a momentary need or problem, good enough will do. They can walk around that rock, so why bother? After all, they’re doing it for fun, so why take the fun out of it?

A pro can’t do that. Pros think in terms of long-lasting and scalable solutions from A to Z. They know they can’t have 300 cars a minute circumventing that rock, so they either think of how to remove it or find a different route. Because they’re not doing it for fun, they’re doing it for a living. Different story.

What customers are paying for

They don’t pay for a product or service. They pay for an experience. This applies for consumers as well as for B2B. Which is why racing to the bottom makes less sense every day. How great an experience can you deliver when making a commercial priced at 3,000 bucks with an intended profit margin of 20%? As opposed to 30,000? Sure, you have to deliver a lot more, but not in the product.

The product itself will come and go, it is just a temporal symptom, a fad, not to be talked about once the shine has worn off. But the experience of how the customer got to it will last much longer. That’s what she remembers, what she’s telling friends, colleagues, business partners, even her competition will be hearing of it. That’s what brings future business.

How much it costs is not as important to a prospect as it is for the salesperson desperate to close the deal. Yet salespeople are often trying to make the whole transaction a safe one, knowing they can deliver what they have sold, or, if they can’t, have an excuse, because the customer wouldn’t pay more, etc. But the fact is, more often than not, they are afraid they won’t make the stretch, they are afraid of uncharted territory, of leaving their comfort zone. Their own perceived sovereignty is more important to them than the delight of their customer and the advancement of their own company.

As Seth already pointed out many years ago, the problem with racing to the bottom is that you might win.

Iconic

When it comes to vivid explanations, Seth just is on spot. Again.

Rockets and Science

Rocket science is fun not only because of the rocket you end up launching but the science that made it possible to make it so.

Just because now and then someone pops up to democratize rockets doesn’t render the science obsolete, but it takes away quite a large portion of the sense of achievement for the scientist.

So despite all the talk of looking at the big picture, labelling yourself as someone building and launching rockets, there might be more value in focusing on and emphasizing the thing you actually do.

Niche size

What’s the size of a niche, preferably one you can seize? Because they keep getting smaller, they need to be smaller the more you want to be the first or maybe only one who caters to and for it.

Sports, for instance. Do we need another sports channel? Maybe not. Okay, make it one step smaller. Do we need another football channel? Maybe not. One more smaller. Do we need a sports channel for the football team of one state? Maybe… or maybe not. Do we need a sports channel for the football teams of one single city?

You see where it’s going. The big “niches” have already been taken, in most cases in such quality that it’s not worth putting up with it. So the obvious thing to do is to find the niche inside the niche. Once again, somebody was having this idea before you, bummer. And in terms of big media, i.e. magazines or TV, doing another iteration often is no use, because the audience keeps getting smaller and smaller, or, to connect the issue to numbers, the cost per reader/viewer starts to increase significantly because attention doesn’t increase proportionally.

That said, the question “Do we need another…?” is misleading in economical terms. When it comes to consumption, we have barely a scarcity of anything. The point is, when you’re not able to make a profit of owning the niche, why have it?

Instead of this deductive approach maybe an inductive one yields better service. A doctor is of most value to those who hurt. And it seems in general, western societies don’t hurt a lot at first sight. But we do, and often we’re not aware of it, because, and this is where the fun kicks in, for every obvious pain we’ve been educated to have there’s a remedy. Well, of course they’re placebos, because those who make them don’t intend to cure us.

So where’s the beef? Well, I think we as human beings want to feel alive, as much as we can. It’s only frustration that lets us drug ourselves down with consumables of whatever kind. If you turn your focus on how you can make people feel alive, that’s where the fruitful niches are.

…in my underwear

Going through Hugh MacLeod’s latest book last night, I felt reassurance that writing the last post the way I did was the right thing to do (at least for now). After all, what’s the point in trying to be insightful and witty fot its own sake? What’s the point if it’s not personal? It’s not about whinging or bragging or ranting, it’s about making use of this medium as a means to discover oneself, or one’s self.

Now I’m smiling because I was really wondering why I had such a writer’s block over the last months. It’s not that there were no ideas (after all, ideas are here), but I felt some strange obligation to express them in a reasonable, insightful, generalized, pragmatic way. Bullshit. Self-imposed limitations like these prevent most people from releasing what’s inside them. What a waste.

So here I am, actually not in my underwear, trying a slightly different approach of writing, and I’ll see shere it gets me. For now, I’m happy.

The environment in which you thrive

Do you know what it is?

Frankly, until yesterday, I didn’t. I had some sense of what it might be, but when reading Masters of DOOM the other day, I got a clear idea of what it is. For instance, John Carmack, the genius programmer of legendary video graphics engines of games like DOOM and QUAKE (and all the other stuff id software did), was at his best when being left alone. All he needed was a computer and sufficient supply of pizza and caffeinated diet soda pop (according to the book). The other John, John Romero, was quite the opposite, outgoing, loud, kinda rock star, you name it. He preferred distraction around him most of the time, until the other John would show him the results of his coding. Then he would completely freak out about what they could do with this new graphics engine, and he’d sit down and create level after level of a new game that would set new records in every aspect of video gaming.

And there’s a lot of examples, especially in popular culture, where two similar but completely different indivduals meet and get to work: John & Paul, the two Steves, the two Johns. They found someone with an innate understanding of what they were about. They could bounce ideas off each other, sometimes getting into a fight because each one was convinced his way was the way to do it, and in the end, they would not end up with a foul compromise, but a solution that mostly contained only the best parts of both sides.

For me, an environment like that is where I perform best too, when I have someone who I can bounce off ideas to without a lot of explaining, someone I share one or more passions with, but who can be completely different (which most humans are, despite common belief I have never come across anyone who was like me — everyone is special in their own way, which is great). This is where I thrive. In the place I currently work, there is no such environment. It’s more, sort of, indifferent, everyone’s tending to their own business. Which is okay, but over the past weeks I kept wondering why despite working massive hours and getting stuff done I didn’t feel that high you get when performing at your best.

Realizing this, I was bristling with energy this morning, I couldn’t contain myself. I got stuff done. I felt performance, though the environment hadn’t changed. It was just the insight: “I do best when it’s so-and-so. Ain’t got that now. Do it anyway.” And obviously, it didn’t last all day, but the overall effect was a good one. Today felt good.

So after all, I just wanted to point out that the environment is quite an important influence on your performance. This is not a new finding in general, I’m aware. But what is important is just how little it takes to make it so. It’s just, in David Kushner’s words, flipping a single bit —such as having the right opposite— that can change your personal experience. And if not, being aware of this may not improve it right away, but it may answer the why question if you’re not doing as well as you know you can. And then you move on.

The ubiquitous canteen

Several years ago, British comedy artist Eddie Izzard did a brilliant parody of Star Wars. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:

And there’s a big truth in there, because this happens all the time, to almost everyone, almost every day. So instead of getting pissed because everyone around you is acting like a jerk (from your perspective), you might wanna remember this and have a good laugh.

Epilogue

Somehow it’s a proof of concept, multiple concepts to be precise. When I purchased “Turning Pro” the other day, the draft for the last post had been lying around for two weeks as a scribbled note, I was just too lazy to sit down and post it. As a matter of consequence, an idea that would have been (also been perceived as) being original now appears to be a paraphrase of another. Which is why it’s really important to ship the stuff you come up with, because an idea without execution has little value.