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Dec 26

Learn from a Master

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Often I will advise a client against opening a new business until they have apprenticed for at least one year and learned from a master in their field. If you want to open a bakery but have little experience in that field, you are setting yourself up for losing money and your business. You need to learn the basic aspects of the business first.

At times the client will ask me for some help with starting a business in a field with very little specific information available. One example was “Tom” who had an idea to provide massage services to corporate employees. The idea was to contact businesses and contract them to pay for their employees to receive a massage as a way to increase productivity while providing a nice fringe benefit to staff.While it sounded like a nice concept, I feared it could be a very difficult sell to business leaders. I asked Tom if he knew of anyone else in the country who had successfully executed this business model. He was aware of two in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area. I advised him to contact each of these business owners and ask if they would be willing to spend some time with him in person to discuss how they had launched the business and what steps they took to be successful. I told him that he should offer to pay each person $1,000 for their advice. If their advice could make him successful, it would be a worthwhile investment.

Tom was skeptical. “Couldn’t they just talk to me on the phone and share the same advice?” “Possibly,” I replied, “but you want good solid information and information is not always free.”

I continued to explain that he was paying me for consulting right now and rather than pay me to explore a small niche business; my advice was to look for one or two successful people in this market and learn from their business model. Then he could copy that model. The thousand dollars he offered to compensate them for their time was to demonstrate how serious he was about receiving useful information and his respect for their advice and time. It would cost no more than $3,500 with travel. That’s an inexpensive way to validate his business idea. Even if he only got one or two great ideas, the cost was worth it.

Pareto designed the famous 80/ 20 curve that demonstrates how 20% of the individuals control 80% of the wealth. Expanding this principle to business, which I believe applies, means that the top 20% of individuals in a field will garner most of the business. Taking this a step further, 20% of the top 20% equals 4%. These are generally the true masters in any field. Find them and learn as much as possible. Read their books and articles. Gain information from their websites and learn as much as possible from them.

We see an example in scripture. “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.” (1 Kings 10:1, NIV) Later we read that the queen did not expect everything for free. “She gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones.” (1 Kings 10:10a, NIV) While the scriptures do not identify everything that the Queen of Sheba learned, she undoubtedly took home many valuable lessons worth the price. Scripture tells us that King Solomon was the wisest person that ever lived. What a tremendous privilege it would have been for King Solomon to answer our questions.

In your field, find the masters.  Study them. Gain all the information you can. Find a way to meet with them if possible and apply everything you learn to your business. The lessons will help you grow your business better than you could have without them.

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