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Notes on starting a successful business Notes on starting a successful business
by Joseph Gatt
2021-01-24 11:42:11
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A few notes on starting a successful business, in no particular order.

-Leadership: the heart of a teacher. If you're going to start a business, you are going to need to be a good listener and a good at explaining how things work.

Some leaders get the “good at explaining things” part but forget the listening part. Others do all the listening and no explaining.

bus001_400_01So, like good teachers, you will need a keen sense of observation, you will need to ask the right questions, to identify the misconceptions, and to give clear explanations and clear instructions.

-The passive leaders: I've seen thousands of businesses fail. All the businesses that I saw fail had either one of three leadership problems. Either the leader was passive, or was too aggressive, or was too passive-aggressive.

The passive leaders are the ones who look at the bank account and delegate everything else. Problem is, if I work for a leader like that, I can pay a visit to the bank with my “mafia friends” and have the banker hand in a fake balance sheet, and give that to the CEO for show.

And then gradually replace the old fake balance sheets with the real ones, those old enough balance sheets that the CEO can't remember, that is.

They do that a lot in China and other countries.

Point is, passive leaders usually have staff that collect their paychecks, slack around on the job, and cook the books.

-The passive-aggressive leaders: problem with “indirect insults” is that soon enough your staff will be insulting clients.

-The aggressive leaders: when a leader is aggressive, his or her subordinates usually settle accounts when clients are visiting. That is subordinates will humiliate the CEO in the presence of important clients in one form or another. Subordinates are very imaginative when it comes to finding ways to humiliate their abusive CEOs in front of clients.

-The business of imitation: A lot of famous CEOs, of small and big firms, get the following question: how do I become a CEO like you?

If I were a CEO, my answer would be “don't become a CEO if you're asking me that question.”


Most people who start businesses do so by way of vague imitation of famous brands. You find small Youtubers imitating famous Youtubers. You find small restaurants imitating famous restaurants. You find pubs vaguely imitating famous pubs. You find small music labels trying to imitate the big ones.

Let's take the example of K-pop or Korean pop music. You have a dozen bands and individual performers who know what they are doing and are super-famous, almost divinities.

And then you have dozens of bands and individuals who imitate the hairstyles, makeup, dance moves, melody and rhythm, and no one really pay attention to that. Why? Because the original musicians supplied a product to the demand, while the imitation musicians are trying to satisfy clients who are already satisfied with existing products.

Let's take the example of restaurants. You have restaurants that are big hits. They cater to a demand of hungry clients. Then you have restaurants that are imitations of the big hits, as in the fast food or family restaurant business. Problem is, those imitations are not supplying a product to the demand, they are trying to create demand where the clients already have a supplier in the big names.

-Mastery: most businesses that last start very small and grow to become big businesses. Kind of like babies. You can't give birth to a 30 year old (haha).

No, really. In business, most successful entrepreneurs start small, very small. They master the “baby company” and watch it grow through trial and error. They try this and it fails. They try that and it succeeds.

But, in the business world, you have many people trying to give birth to 30 year olds, that is to start businesses that are imitations of huge corporations, only the huge corporations nurtured that child for many, many years, and watched it grow from scratch.

-Advertising: The best way, by far, to advertise, is by socializing.

Those companies that keep their employees locked up in the office until 2PM are really doing themselves a dis-service, because a lot of times those employees could be socializing. And by socializing, those employees tend to indirectly advertise the company and its products.

I see a lot of companies focus their advertising on young adults and housewives, i.e. on Social Media and television, which is a good thing when it comes to communicating with the final recipient of the product, i.e. the consumer.

But, those same companies forget the advertise with the “big guys” and the “big girls.” Who are the big guys and big girls? Those executives who are vital to your supply chain.

If you're in the coffee business, you really need a marketing strategy geared toward the big coffee farms and the big coffee business executives, and the transportation executives, and the real estate executives.

What kind of marketing campaign?

The kind of marketing campaign that says “I'm a big name in the coffee business and I'm a big client, and we are going to work together for many years, so help me out”

Where do you do such advertising campaigns? Not on social media. But at actual social events, charity events, fundraisers, gala dinners, conferences and the like.

How does this socializing thing work? Most people only go to an event once, give away as many business cards as they can, and then run away and never show up to subsequent events. That's not correct.

What is correct is to be shy the first time you show up, let people introduce you to other people. A little less shy on the second event. A little less shy at the third event. And then gradually be in familiar grounds and people will know who you are.

-Finally, the need for a demand. So many of the thousands of businesses I saw fail, failed because there was no demand for their product or service.

Or because there was a demand for the product or service, but they could not reach their clients, either because they were passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive.

But, many people try to provide a service that they are very good at providing, but that no one really needs.

Or, many people try to provide a service that they are not good at providing, but that people actually need.

Or, they provide a service that is in demand, but they don't go out and try to advertise their product in different social circles. That is they lock themselves up in their office.

-Final, final note. Two quick notes.

First, I've seen quite a few people lack the kind of thick skin needed when conducting business. Clients love complaining. So you usually have to be stoic with that. If client complaints depress you or turn you into an alcoholic, you can't win at business.

Second and final note. Working with the demand. People usually don't explicitly demand a product. So a good businessman or businesswoman knows what people are implicitly demanding.

For example, if I wanted to make money in Algeria right now, I would try to rub shoulders with town halls and city halls to sell them street signals on hygiene procedures, because there seems to be a demand for that, and no supply. The way I would imagine those signals is banners supported by plastic or led legs to indicate clearly what people are supposed to be doing regarding garbage disposal and other hygiene practices.

That's what I mean by implicit demand.

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