FIND A TOP NICHE MARKET.
One thing I noticed looking at successful entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial family members around me is
THEY DON’T DO MARKETING.
They are not eager to scale up their business, but they start a business because people ask them for it.
Look at my friend starting an educational business — students fly from all over the world to take the lesson because they cannot find the service anywhere in the world. He is not actively doing marketing.
Look at my mom — she started selling her handmade bags since she’d been making them for the past few decades. When she was a teenager, she decided that “I will keep sewing!” since sewing cloth was her strengths, and that’s what she loved to do. After a half century, she still keeps doing it and people ask her to make their cloth. She’s never tried to do marketing.
Look at my grandma — she started a business on 1945, right after the war. People needed “brightness” in their lives. They needed “lights”. My grandma and her husband started a retail business to sell electronic products. Many Japanese people dreamed about having refrigerator, washing machine and TV at their homes back in 1960s, and my grand parents delivered them. They didn’t have marketing tools.
STARTUP, ENTREPRENEURSHIP… so what?
People come up with some new words as it’s the upcoming trend for the new era. STARTUP, SOCIAL BUSINESS, SUBSCRIPTION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, ECO-FRIENDLY… and when I speak about these topics with merchants and small business owners back in my home country, they all reply “so what?”
It’s like surfing.
Some people are good at capturing the good wave.
It looks so cool when people do surfing.
I’m sure many successful entrepreneurs around me have never tried it, but some people are good at forecasting the weather by observing wave and tide.
(I’ve never tried surfing, by the way…)
Sometimes wave turns into tunami and the huge wave swallows all the existing lives in a second. Nobody can guess when it comes. After tsunami hit the coast and pulled everything into the ocean, people start building their lives all over again.
We don’t see surfers on the ocean all the time, and when surfers show up they make the waves attractive. But we can always enjoy observing the waves whenever we want — because we enjoy nature.
Many successful entrepreneurs are good at observing and forecasting the wave although they’ve never tried surfing — they know how to enjoy nature by observing it.
Scaling up in a second, or keep it simple
Startup is trendy, and it’s cool — and I love collaborating with startups.
Decision making is 100 times faster than corporate world (especially in Japan), and it’s just so refreshing!
Most of my startup friends say they hustle and struggle, however.
Many of them rush into Stage A, B, C … and go public in the end, and they struggle a lot. Investors ask them to grow faster and return more.
They stick to the first idea because they strongly believe in that the idea works. Yes, it sometimes does.
They come up with a brilliant idea, but nobody buys it. Waiting for the first customer and running out of cash give them additional pressure.
Entrepreneurs around me managing a business without having too much stress are always starting small and waiting to institutionalize the organization until they find enough demand without paying for marketing.
They decide to incorporate the business because they find some benefits by incorporating it — for example, minimizing the legal risks, clarifying the decision making power or utilizing the stock option — but not for the attractive external appears.
Don’t always catch the wave
In Japan people forgot the value of being asked from their clients while pursuing the radical economic growth in the few decades right after the war.
Most of them thought they need to grow fast, raise price because people still buy the offerings, and earn as much as they can — until the economic bubble bursted in 1991.
The business owners who survived after the recession in 1990s are those who didn’t follow the wave that everybody was trying to surf.
They were following what they decided to pursue regardless of the economic change. They didn’t raise the price, try to earn too much money during the rapid economic growth period, and grow too fast.
One of my entrepreneurial friends in Osaka shared his story.
He started a business around 1970s, experienced a bubble economy and the burst. He kept the same business without rising the price and expanding his team and business though it was obvious that he could easily catch the wave on 1980s.
Almost all of his business partners doubled or tripled the price to earn more, and right after the recession their sales stopped.
One of them decided to pull out his insurance premium for his family by killing himself, because his business completely collapsed as the wave went away.
Train ourselves to observe the waves
One of my book lover friends told me that
“these authors don’t just waste their time for writing a few hundred pages to complete a book. Not like a blog they are thoroughly thinking for the past few years, and finish writing the book, so you can learn much more from a book than showing up multiple events or seminars.”
I attended so many events and seminars to catch up the latest trend and meet people around the trendy topics right after I came to Tokyo. I wasn’t invited, but paid to attend lots of events to study.
After my book lover friend told me about the value of reading books instead of spending time and money to go to multiple events, I changed the way I consume my time.
I went to library or book cafe on weekends instead of going to events, and read 3–4 books per day. I read some books that nobody wants to read — for instance, 2,000 pages of immigration law materials.
It turned out that reading only one book does not help us to understand, but reading at least three books on the same topic gives us the general idea of which is right. Reading 2,000 pages give us far more knowledge than the average people.
Now all the knowledge in my brain turned to gravitation just like the book lover friend interact with people smoothly with a dialogue — not a pitch slide.
Marketing for 1 → 100 purpose
I’m not an opponent of marketers — “marketing” works perfectly when someone wants to grow a business from 1 to 100 by expanding the organization, but not for 0 to 1.
Startup exists for 0 to 1, and the owners tend to refer the trendy words, but I found it doesn’t work for many cases.
Audience wants to listen to a true story, not a dramatized one.
Many people actually don’t care about the trendy words. They want to see the honesty.
Merchants or business owners with tons of business experience cares how the new comers in the industry are trustworthy to collaborate.
No need to exaggerate for a small business.
Marketing for 1 → 100 purpose works as a sophistication instead of exaggeration, and we need to patiently wait until our business turn into the next stage. No need to rush.