Not Rocket Science. Value Creation.
Earlier today, we published this podcast episode about why being a consistent creator, instead of a consistent critic, is key to having a positive impact in the world:
It's also the key to build a thriving, fulfilling business.
On that note, I'd like to share a story I wrote about in my book about my friend, Mike Johnson.
A former newspaperman from Florida, Mike moved with his wife to Cody, Wyoming, former home of the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody. There, they started a profitable trolley tour company. He later became an early retirement expert, making millions through ownership and management of mobile home parks, and now donates his time to help others do the same.
Mike and I met at a conference in February 2017, and I interviewed him on my podcast shortly thereafter. It was his 2015 LinkedIn article, however, that blew me away and really demonstrated the power of being open to opportunities.
“Opportunity is everywhere,” Johnson wrote in his article, How I Turned a Folding Chair Into $315,000. “You just have to ask ‘What’s missing?’ and ‘How can I profitably provide that?’”
Mike explains that his trolley tour company was headquartered in the Irma Hotel, which was apparently built by Buffalo Bill himself.
“Six nights a week, the hotel sponsored an old-west play that ended with a gunfight right in the street in front of the hotel,” he wrote. “It attracted over 300 people per night. The show was free but seating was limited to a few picnic tables and the curb. Most people had to stand for the 40 minute show. Operating on the porch as we did, we had a close look at customer discomfort. Many times we’d bring a few chairs out of the hotel for elderly viewers.”
Those chairs turned into a profitable opportunity for Mike. As he explained, the show had been operating “for over 50 years without adequate seating, yet no one had done anything about it.” So Mike rented a dozen folding chairs, put them out, and charged $1 per chair for people to sit.
One of his employees told Mike it was the “dumbest idea” he’d ever heard of, but he changed his mind once Mike kept selling out his rented chairs. Year after year.
After twelve years, when Mike finally sold the business — including the chair rental service — he estimates they had generated more than $315,000 in revenue over that time just from the rented chairs.
While others criticized his ideas, he created value for other people.
Those people, in turn, provided him money.
While some may read this story and think Mike is a "smart businessman," I submit that he's "smart" because he is creative.
As I discussed on my podcast here, I'll take a creative businessperson over a smart "subject matter expert" any day of the week.
There are opportunities to create everywhere and for everyone. These opportunities are in my day. They're in your day. They're in my life. They're in your life.
The key is being open enough to see the opportunities when they present themselves.
The opportunities stem from what your customers want. From there, you'll have ideas on how to fill those wants. And your profitable business will be the manifestation of those ideas through the creation of value for those paying customers.
Mike's potential customers wanted to sit. He provided chairs. They provided money in return.
Not rocket science.