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NOTABLE! I try, I fail, I try again. Recurring pattern going on 10 years

safff

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I spend time thinking about these things a lot actually. Recently a lot too as I have decided to take the next couple of months for some serious introspection and decide on next steps, preferably business related.

I believe I learn new things and don't repeat mistakes but it is difficult to judge yourself, right? :) I know that I have become much stronger at evaluating new business opportunities now I've had a lot of experience with various kinds. People actually come to me for business advice and tend to do well using it. Somehow I'm failing to translate this knowledge to my own success.

You're right a couple of the businesses didn't last long at all. One was a partnership with a friend I realized early on that could ruin our friendship so stopped it (lesson learned!) and another was a coffee shop I actually rushed into the location and found the footfall lacking to the point I was earning less than minimum wage for a 80hr work week. Again, valuable lessons learned on trading time for money and evaluating the business properly. Nowadays I don't make those kinds of mistakes anymore.

The couple of grand business was my biggest success and in hindsight maybe I could have stuck with it to fix the things that took up my time so much. In the end I sold it and the proceeds have enabled me to be more picky about what I do next so there was some good from it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, really useful.
Going by the above list:
-Internet cafe
-Coffee Shop
-Drop shipping stores
-Software plugins
-Website for artists
-Football game
-Community for gamers

I can see a few trends. With the exception for the software businesses they're all low value (read: alternatives exist, not necessary, already done 'easy' businesses), some time consuming, or effort hungry if they're going to go anywhere. You can't often build a community in such a short timespan especially if it's not unique. To establish a community it often takes years not months. Coffee, Internet are almost novelties nowadays.

Sales and marketting in the real world are honed with a myriad of micro successes and failures themselves so its often not enough to just know the theory, it takes time to dial it in.

Define what success looks like to you both short and long term. is growing from zero to a few grand a month a success? I'd say it would be if it shows it can grow even further.

You say you're not good at marketing which is something you can work at - but in the mean time exploit what you are good at - it's not just coincidence that the software business was the one with the most success. Stick at one and continually improve it rather than bailing before you've even penetrated the surface, but take the time to identify whether your proposed business is actually a need or a 'would be nice'.

Sometimes a vision of 'a business that will let me have this sort of lifestyle' instead of 'a business that will succeed - and then I can have this sort of lifestyle' is what keeps you trying to take superficial options rather than grinding out a real niche.
 

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peacemaker

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@AgainstAllOdds @safff Thank you both for taking the time to analyse this stuff for me. It's been really useful and quite eye opening. With some perspective you can obviously see it's true what you both have said. A lot of those businesses were not good for a variety of reasons.

Interesting you both picked up on the software business as being the best choice. Stick with what you know as they say. I know it's the most likely way for me to get the the lifestyle I want but over the years I have gotten more burnt out and jaded with writing software everyday which is probably why I attempted all those different types of things. It's one thing to understand intellectually what is the smartest route, it's another to know emotionally. Basically what I'm trying to say is that I don't think I would be very happy building a completely software orientated business and that would most likely affect the outcome of the business. But I hear what you guys are saying so thankyou again.

I will also think about doing a progress thread, thanks for the suggestion!
 

safff

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@AgainstAllOdds @safff Thank you both for taking the time to analyse this stuff for me. It's been really useful and quite eye opening. With some perspective you can obviously see it's true what you both have said. A lot of those businesses were not good for a variety of reasons.

Interesting you both picked up on the software business as being the best choice. Stick with what you know as they say. I know it's the most likely way for me to get the the lifestyle I want but over the years I have gotten more burnt out and jaded with writing software everyday which is probably why I attempted all those different types of things. It's one thing to understand intellectually what is the smartest route, it's another to know emotionally. Basically what I'm trying to say is that I don't think I would be very happy building a completely software orientated business and that would most likely affect the outcome of the business. But I hear what you guys are saying so thankyou again.

I will also think about doing a progress thread, thanks for the suggestion!
Completely understand that - I've found myself in exactly the same position.

I'm not saying to stick with what you know per say, but to at least think about exploiting what you know as a starting point, especially if you're struggling for viable ideas.

You have a skillset that many people struggle with or lack in their businesses, so maybe try to look at using it from other angles. It could mean as an example targeting businesses that want to grow with a customised software or finding a solution using your abilities in another industry - lots of opportunities other than doing a software engineer job.

I grew to hate my day job, and spent a year trying to start instant success businesses. Dropship sites mostly. Recently took a different approach and have quit my job and found a niche area related to the job to focus my business on with additional opportunities (one software based funnily enough) that come up during the course. But it's a means to an end - a mechanism to set myself and the business up to grow into other areas altogether and making good money under my own terms until such a time when that happens in the next 6-12 months.
 
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Chazmania

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Think success and take massive action towards that goal. Learn from every mistake. Take more swings. Keep learning. Pick something that you're willing to work at for the next 10 years. Work at it for the next ten years.

Read about winners. Think about what makes a winner. Realize you're competing for something and the competition is fierce and hungry. Don't expect easy. Realize that difficulty is a barrier to entry for weaker people. Look for patterns from people on this forum that have had big success. Become obsessed with the idea of abundance and success. Believe in yourself. See yourself succeeding in what you've set out to do. Be a winner in what you've committed to competing in.

Btw, I wasn't even talking to you OP, that's just what I've learned to tell myself. ;)
 

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wow you made thousands a month with your businesses?
Id be successful and financially free with that.
I fail to see the failure.
 

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Basically what I'm trying to say is that I don't think I would be very happy building a completely software orientated business and that would most likely affect the outcome of the business.
Are you going to be happy working 50 years at a job you hate?

Quit mistaking the business grind as a walk in the park. Sounds like you've been corrupted by the worst two pieces of advice infecting the internet ... "follow your passion" and "do what you love."

I have a great life. Wanna know why? Because I did what I hated, not loved. And in conquering those challenges, I grew as a person realized my dreams.
 

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Are you going to be happy working 50 years at a job you hate?

Quit mistaking the business grind as a walk in the park. Sounds like you've been corrupted by the worst two pieces of advice infecting the internet ... "follow your passion" and "do what you love."

I have a great life. Wanna know why? Because I did what I hated, not loved. And in conquering those challenges, I grew as a person realized my dreams.
That's an excellent point.

Do what you love is a bullshit mantra.

I love my kids. I love gf. I love my quality of life.

I don't F*cking love my business.

I like my clients and enjoy the work, but for me the business is a means to an end, not the pinnacle of my existence.

I do love business in the sense that I enjoy being productive. But there are tons of ways I can fill that personal need.

Don't chase a passion. Chase the value and the rewards will come.

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LuckyPup

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I want success. Success to me is financial freedom. Freedom to pick and choose when I work on my business and when I enjoy time with my friends and family and hobbies.

Some people would say I am successful. In my (slowlane) career I have reached the top of the ladder, to the point where many companies and startups want me to join them as an employee. A C-level employee but an employee nonetheless.

In my business endevours I am a failure. Sure, I built up a few things of moderate success, from a couple hundred a month to a couple grand a month but nothing more. I think I'm up to my 6th or 7th business over the last 10 years now and success seems as far away as all the other attempts. I've followed the advice, my businesses meet needs, scale, entry, time and control requirements. I give them all 100% focus and time and don't give up easily, yet still they fail.

Where do I go from here? When I'm feeling negative I think perhaps business is not for me, but those thoughts are fleeting. I know I have learned so much from my previous businesses that each new business gets a step close to success. That experience combined with my technical background I should be able to make anything successful.

I've tried many things to break the pattern. I've worked across industries and media. Bricks-and-mortar businesses to online and mail order. I've traveled the world and spent time at meetups and business groups. I've worked extremely difficult jobs and very boring ones too. I've lived in business hub cities across the world and out in the remote countryside too.

What am I missing?
It's hard to lend meaningful advice when I don't know what your ventures were, what the time frame for each was, or what you did, or didn't do to make them successful. Not knowing any of that and reading between the lines of your post, it seems as if you're looking for edification and accountability - both of which are outside your locus of control. Look inward, not outward, grasshopper. I suspect that you already know why your ventures failed - you're chasing money, rather than finding opportunities to solve problems and deliver value. Lesson learned. Fail forward.
 

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What am I missing?
the things you should consider are your core values about life and the tools to get and sustain them

what do you really want to do with money ?

money is a tool, not the end. you won't eat money or sleep in it

you will use it for specifics ends but maybe you can get these ends with others ways than using money

you have to reframe things and think outside the box

leaders among cave men or religious leaders were free and powerful : they had all the luxuries of ancient time without using money

money is a way but not the only way to get abundance in your life
 

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Here's a sure safe way to become a successful business owner.

BUY an established franchise or business that has systems/standard operating procedures in place.

This takes away the risk of having to find customers and testing the water to find out if you are providing a service/product that the public wants to pay for AND it gives you the exact steps you need to keep operating the business.

Buy one that has has employees in place and the current owner is absentee. Let's say it costs $500k, and generates $300k/year in cash flow. You'd have your investment back in 2 years and you'd finally be a successful business owner :)

Leverage your good credit, C-suite skills and buy the bish instead of building it from scratch LOL.
 
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peacemaker

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Did you work on your projects until the market echoed some feedback?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The coffee shop for example the market pretty much proved it was a bad idea by not coming in the door! I talk to my customers of the software business and they tell me what they like and dislike about the product which is invaluable. But a lot of the old businesses I listed earlier I think in hindsight (and with help from people in this thread) I did not work on some of them long enough to know for sure if success was an option.

Peseverence is key, I get that. Now I must learn the line where peseverence becomes stuborness. I think with a lot more research up front I can avoid some of these mistakes before I start simply by truly knowing the business meets CENTS requirements.
 
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peacemaker

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Are you going to be happy working 50 years at a job you hate?

Quit mistaking the business grind as a walk in the park. Sounds like you've been corrupted by the worst two pieces of advice infecting the internet ... "follow your passion" and "do what you love."

I have a great life. Wanna know why? Because I did what I hated, not loved. And in conquering those challenges, I grew as a person realized my dreams.
So you're saying stop being a pussy? :D I hear ya!
 
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peacemaker

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Here's a sure safe way to become a successful business owner.

BUY an established franchise or business that has systems/standard operating procedures in place.

This takes away the risk of having to find customers and testing the water to find out if you are providing a service/product that the public wants to pay for AND it gives you the exact steps you need to keep operating the business.

Buy one that has has employees in place and the current owner is absentee. Let's say it costs $500k, and generates $300k/year in cash flow. You'd have your investment back in 2 years and you'd finally be a successful business owner :)

Leverage your good credit, C-suite skills and buy the bish instead of building it from scratch LOL.
I'm actively looking for a business to buy right now :) Thanks though, it's good to hear people have the same thoughts
 

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This is your answer. You're not solving a need. If you're headed into "areas [where] the competition was high and much better," then you're not solving a need. The competition already solved the need and you're just money chasing. Stop money chasing and it'll get easier.

Let's run through the businesses you listed:
  • Internet cafe
  • Coffee Shop
  • Drop shipping stores (coupe of them)
  • Software plugins
  • Car parts website
  • Event booking system
  • Website for artists to share
  • Football game
  • Community for gamers
  • Software plugins business again

Here's why you did not (or did) fill a need:
  • No one needs an internet cafe when there's internet at home, on mobile, etc.
  • Coffee shops are everywhere. This is a "me to" business. You're not solving a need but money-chasing.
  • Drop shipping stores used to be profitable. But the past decade or so, the internet made it really easy to import from overseas and stock product. You're competing against individuals that have inventory on hand, at better prices, and higher margins which they can use to crush you via ad buys, etc.
  • Software plugins: sounds like a winner. Can you talk more about this one? What problems were you solving then and why do you think this one was successful?
  • Car parts website: Did you have inventory? Or were you selling others' products with horrible margins? Drop shipping again?
  • No one needs another event booking system. For simple things you have Facebook and Google Calendar. For more important events you have Eventbrite, etc.
  • Website for artists to share: Artists already have a lot of options to share, and they rarely spend money on marketing.
  • Football game? Like Madden or Fifa? Did you really think you were solving a need?
  • Community for gamers: I'm sure there's already a ton of communities out there.
  • Software plugins business again: What's the difference this time from before? What need are you trying to solve? Why are you not getting traction? Start a progress thread and you'll get feedback.
So to summarize why you're not making money: You're not solving a need. Furthermore, I'd bet that this statement is false: "my businesses meet needs, scale, entry, time and control requirements," considering that you don't solve a need.

Start a progress thread for what you're currently doing. You can do it on the Inside if you're scared of someone knocking off your idea. Find out this week if your idea has potential or not from veterans.

You can't polish a turd. You need better ideas that actually solve problems.
Read this again and again -- it just made this thread NOTABLE.

Here at Fastlane, we like to talk about value. Value, value, value!

But entrepreneurship is more than that...

It's about relative value.

Sure, a community for gamers might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable, meaning, there's too much existing value already there.

Likewise, a fitness blog full of fitness tips might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable...

Relative value is the keystone to creating a profitable business.
 
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peacemaker

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Read this again and again -- it just made this thread NOTABLE.

Here at Fastlane, we like to talk about value. Value, value, value!

But entrepreneurship is more than that...

It's about relative value.

Sure, a community for gamers might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable, meaning, there's too much existing value already there.

Likewise, a fitness blog full of fitness tips might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable...

Relative value is the keystone to creating a profitable business.

Love that post and really did take it to heart. Thanks @AgainstAllOdds for taking the time to break it down like that. It's so useful because it can be difficult to see when you are so close to all of those decisions but getting an unbiased view is exactly what I wanted and needed from this thread. So thank you again.

It's also very interesting to hear you mention "Relative Value" because I understand about value but perhaps hadn't thought about it in the way you describe. Just adding the word "relative" feels like it has literally given my mind a jolt of understanding, no exaggeration. Just with that concept, so many of my current ideas have gone up in smoke and my mind is whirring with new potential ones - it's really exciting!

I've actually taken a new approach these past few weeks, giving myself to help other people with no expectation of reward. I've been volunteering and using my skills to help other peoples businesses and I've done so not just because it is extremely gratifying to help others but in doing so you start to see ways where you can actually create REAL value for people. Combining that with this kind of advice about relative value and I genuinely think that now I am on the right path.

I really appreciate all the help and comments from people here.
 

SYK

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I know it's the most likely way for me to get the the lifestyle I want but over the years I have gotten more burnt out and jaded with writing software everyday which is probably why I attempted all those different types of things.
Do you have to do the coding? Why not outsource it so you can get on with selling? If you plan to scale, at some point you can't be writing all the software yourself. Outsourcing has never been easier or cheaper thanks to geoarbitrage.
 

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It's about relative value.

Sure, a community for gamers might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable, meaning, there's too much existing value already there.

Likewise, a fitness blog full of fitness tips might be valuable, but it isn't relatively valuable...

Relative value is the keystone to creating a profitable business.
I really like the way you worded this.

I'm getting a business off the ground that has virtually zero competition in the U.S.

The quality/value of my product doesn't need to be an 11 out of 10 to compete.

I can get started much quicker and do just fine with a 7 out of 10 value offering.

The relative value of my product will be a 10/10, because there are currently no feasible options to solve this need.
 

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Apply your time, energy and effort into something that excites you and something that makes $. If it doesn't excite you then you wont put the required amount of energy and effort into it and if it doesn't make you money you wont put the time into it (and so you shouldn't)
 

NeverTooLate

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wow you made thousands a month with your businesses?
Id be successful and financially free with that.
I fail to see the failure.
In all seriousness, I envy you. Your financial targets are well within reach and shouldn't take too long to hit!

I don't know your situation, but in my case, things like marriage, kids, aging parents, college funds, house, desire to travel, etc... all tend to up the ante on what constitutes "financial freedom". :)
 

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luniac

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In all seriousness, I envy you. Your financial targets are well within reach and shouldn't take too long to hit!

I don't know your situation, but in my case, things like marriage, kids, aging parents, college funds, house, desire to travel, etc... all tend to up the ante on what constitutes "financial freedom". :)
yea i dont have any of those burdens, 26 and single here, split rent and bills with my mother and brother.
working my job and working on my apps is my life basically.
and yet in over 3 years financial success has still eluded me.
but like whats his name said "you only need to be right once"
i know ill be set with just one hit. im a minimalist.
 

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Don't try and error. Just copy others who already done it. Copy successful people.

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What am I missing?
Honestly, this is just me, but I feel it's hard to completely MISS why a business is failing.
When I run into issue in my business, I write down what the issue is and every possibility for why.

All driven by a single idea - I want to solve needs, simplify and automate, and scale.

I wasn't getting enough business/interest, so I made a pivot. Analyzed the data. If I'm ever unsure of why there's a lack of need or business is slow, I drill down into that data. Until you know why things are happening, you're vulnerable.

If I'm investing more time in my product than I want, I look at why. Do I need to invest in better product training, support, or can I find a way to automate this?

Scale - am I reaching enough customers? Do I need to expand my markets?

Every failure should come with a clear reason why - fix that reason, write down where you failed and why as honest as possible.
 
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Honestly, this is just me, but I feel it's hard to completely MISS why a business is failing.
When I run into issue in my business, I write down what the issue is and every possibility for why.

All driven by a single idea - I want to solve needs, simplify and automate, and scale.

I wasn't getting enough business/interest, so I made a pivot. Analyzed the data. If I'm ever unsure of why there's a lack of need or business is slow, I drill down into that data. Until you know why things are happening, you're vulnerable.

If I'm investing more time in my product than I want, I look at why. Do I need to invest in better product training, support, or can I find a way to automate this?

Scale - am I reaching enough customers? Do I need to expand my markets?

Every failure should come with a clear reason why - fix that reason, write down where you failed and why as honest as possible.
I agree it is relatively simple to miss why a specific business is failing. I've seen all sorts of failures with my businesses. The question is more about why I (as in me personally) am failing consistently with my businesses. There is an issue with the process I undertake when deciding on and commiting to an idea. I thought I was choosing good ideas that met a need but obviously not. Lots of people in this thread have been really helpful in pointing out that I wasn't doing that. It is difficult to see what is staring you in the face sometimes. Perhaps just being too close to my own ideas caused that kind of "blindness" which is why posting here is so useful.
 
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peacemaker

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Copy? Like how? Elaborate please.
I've seen a lot of this kind of advice before. I think he means simply to take a successful business that is obviously earning money and then copy what they do to take a slice of the pie.

Not a big fan of that idea myself. If you're going after a successful niche I think you need to add something new to your offering. Kind of what you said about relative value earlier in the thread. What's the point of just adding yet another <thing> if plenty already exist? None. And that is generally reflected in the lack of success the copycat business sees.

There is just so much crap all over the internet with business advice. "Follow your passion!", "Copy success", "You must change the world!", "Find a micro-niche", "Appeal to many people" and so on and so on. It is so tiring. I have decided to cut the crap and focus. It was clear to me when starting out in business and I feel it got a bit muddled over time but truly all that matters is PROVIDING VALUE. If you have something to offer of value, everything else is just a strategy or add-on to get that value to people.
 

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Maybe your job is in fact your anchor. Just a thought.
Anyone who has read some of my posts will know that I f*cked up on this a bit recently, but I'm in the same boat as @GlobalWealth and apart from a 6 week stint as a caretaker for an outdoor pursuits company, I've always worked for myself and so had to make my own money.

Your job does sound like your anchor. Mine when I failed and stayed a failure? Entitlement. I'm a fast learner. I can retain a lot of knowledge. It means I can dive into an industry and do well. I had an awesome run of about 15 years when couldn't go wrong... then it did and it wasn't because of anyone else but me.

I jumped into a new industry believing I was the golden child and untouchable. Did I do any real research? Did I make sure anything about it fit the CENTS approach? Nope, I just loved that people thought I was awesome funding something and being the big "I can achieve anything". I deserved to fall flat on my face... and I deserved these last couple of years where I stepped back from stepping up because my pride was hurt even more than my bank balance.

The reason these last few years I've ended up cycling like you through failed idea after failed idea is being too inward. I started out in web design and spent days emailing / calling / sending letters to EVERYONE in my Yellow Pages (I'm so old it was before business directories online). Admittedly to start with it was a horrible plan as there was no specificity to it, but the truth was I learnt a lot. I learnt people didn't want websites, they wanted a master salesperson to sell them online... that was the need... so I tailored and tailored my offering till I was actually meeting the need. It got the bills paid, plus a whole lot more.

The money stopped flowing and the struggle begin when I stopped talking. Stopped looking outward. Going between still thinking I was golden and people should just come to me and thinking I was a failure and not wanting to put myself out there because people wouldn't want to work with a flop was all I did. Not one second was really spent on trying to figure out any of the skills I had and how to transfer those into helping others.

I deserved to fail. I've learnt my lessons. I'm by no means saying this is all true for you, but I would suggest that you look to what has happened, look to the lessons and then let it go. Focus on what difference you have made to people, how you've done it.. and how you can do more of it.
 

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I agree it is relatively simple to miss why a specific business is failing. I've seen all sorts of failures with my businesses. The question is more about why I (as in me personally) am failing consistently with my businesses. There is an issue with the process I undertake when deciding on and commiting to an idea. I thought I was choosing good ideas that met a need but obviously not. Lots of people in this thread have been really helpful in pointing out that I wasn't doing that. It is difficult to see what is staring you in the face sometimes. Perhaps just being too close to my own ideas caused that kind of "blindness" which is why posting here is so useful.
100% - and this is where, for all the love I have for the Fastlane concept, you have to understand it's just a framework and guideline.

I got caught in this too. Yes - the commandment of need is KEY. But there's more to identifying needs than having people tell you " I wish there was a solution for problem X" because half the time people don't actually know what they want. It's so easy to want to be drawn to discovering the "idea" but there's so much more process involved in validating that idea. For example, I was an intrapreneur at my old work and our franchisees who were struggling asked for an e commerce solution for selling product.

We rolled something out and nobody used it, turns out that regardless of what they said, they were just bad, uncommitted, business people and we needed to work on much more significant problems first. The need was there, I heard it with my own two ears, but nobody used it because there was another unspoken factor.

Recently I secured a contract for my business and I presented a product I didn't even build yet. I did a mockup on photoshop. I thought the need Existed, I heard the need was there, but would people pay the right amount for that need to be solved- turns out yes. And although there is still a ton of validation needed, I'm closer than I was.
 

maverick

Unorthodox Nonconformist
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I've seen a lot of this kind of advice before. I think he means simply to take a successful business that is obviously earning money and then copy what they do to take a slice of the pie.

Not a big fan of that idea myself. If you're going after a successful niche I think you need to add something new to your offering. Kind of what you said about relative value earlier in the thread. What's the point of just adding yet another <thing> if plenty already exist? None. And that is generally reflected in the lack of success the copycat business sees.

There is just so much crap all over the internet with business advice. "Follow your passion!", "Copy success", "You must change the world!", "Find a micro-niche", "Appeal to many people" and so on and so on. It is so tiring. I have decided to cut the crap and focus. It was clear to me when starting out in business and I feel it got a bit muddled over time but truly all that matters is PROVIDING VALUE. If you have something to offer of value, everything else is just a strategy or add-on to get that value to people.
I agree, however you can apply this with a twist. Take, for example, the Samwer brothers. They founded a company called Rocket Internet that takes the concept of successful US startups, copies it, and launches it in other markets.

For more info:
Inside the clone factory: the story of the Samwer brothers and Rocket Internet
Germany's Samwer Brothers To Become Billionaires With Rocket Internet IPO

As a consequence of their success though, they've fuelled the startup scene in EU:
Rocket Internet closes $1B fund, the largest out of Europe to date

My main takeaway is that you can study successful enterprises and extract a blueprint as to what created their success. You can put that blueprint to work for your own business (or at least pick the elements that work for you).
 
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