Nothing to lose

An extremist, willing to die for his religion, is scaring all of us. Why? They have nothing to lose. The less you have to lose, the more risk you want to take. That is why a younger and more naïve entrepreneur is more likely to start and grow a business than a high level manager (=employee).

The high level manager learned over the past 20 years how to make a career. This means: he has learned how to please the shareholders of his company, trading his time for money. He’ll have a company car, a high salary and insurance for his family. If he now wants to learn how to make or grow money instead of earn money, he has something to loose. Especially if he has lived according to his high standard. A high mortgage, expensive hobbies, and lots of restaurants. The more your standard of living (cost) approaches your salary (income), the more you have to lose. And the less likely you’ll dive into the making of money, instead of the earning of money.

The young naïve entrepreneur does not have anything to lose. He is broke. He can only win. He could go for the “quick win” (salary), or to go for the “long term win” (growing a company). The more easy and secure is the quick win. Find a job. The more funny and profitable is surely the long term win. You live only once, no? Then give it a shot!  Try it. Try how to make money, in stead of how to earn money.

The process of learning how to make money is slow. Super super slow. It’s not rewarding in the short term. It asks time, effort, sweat, stamina, hard work. You’ll make mistakes while finding out how to make money. If you decided that you want to learn how to make money, you’ll have hard times seeing your friends earning much more money than you do. They’ll have a company car.  They just find a job and HOP, every month they get a paycheck. While you don’t. You see time ticking away. For months. For years. While everyone earns money (trading their time for it), you are still in the process learning how to make money.

But little by little, over the years, you’ll learn how to make money. And you can repeat your small successes into bigger ones. You don’t make the same mistakes as in the early days. You are learning how to make money. They don’t teach you at school how to make money. They prepare you for earning money. So you’ll have to figure out yourself. But once you get the basics, you can repeat that process. Into bigger and bigger successes. You only get better and better at making money. You can scale it. After 10 years of focussing on the question “how can I make money” (in stead of trading 10 years your time for a paycheck), you will have learned so much that it feels as if you have your own money printing machine.

It’s never too late to learn how to make money (= become an entrepreneur)! 3 years ago, I was earning money. More than enough for a twenty ager. I had a company car, a nice salary, other advantages, I had a nice expat position in the south of Spain. But still. I felt like I was not part of a dynamic, young growing machine. I was working in a big company, trading my hours for money. I didn’t learn how to make money. I was a piece of a money generating machine, but that was it. I didn’t control that money making machine. I didn’t grow anything. I decided to give it a shot, and start learning how to make money in stead of how to earn money.

Most people think they risk big things when taking the leap. It’s not true. What will happen when someone that can not swim falls into the water? Will they sink? For sure not. They will survive, since there is no other way. They MUST swim, or they die. You risk much less than you think you do. What is the worst that could happen when you give up your job and try it yourself? Well, the worst is that you have to take another job in a few years since it didn’t work out (= the same situation as you are into right now).

If you want to learn how to make money, my biggest advice is to put yourself in a “nothing to lose” position, the sooner the better. If you have nothing to lose, you are prepared to take bigger risks. Much bigger risks. You have more energy. Do you have to speak in front of a 2000 people audience in order to succeed? OK, so it be. You have to work every day of the week, 10 hours per day, in order to launch and get your first 100 customers? OK, let’s go! I did tell my former boss I won’t come back. BAM, I was in a nothing to lose position. I HAD to find a way out, there was no other way. It’s all in your mindset. If you are fired, if you have no job, if you hate your job, you have nothing to lose. For some people, there is no other way than to succeed. Those are going to get there. It’s that simple.

Are you happy with your job? Then by all means stay there! Are you NOT happy with your job, you don’t have a job? Hooray! Good news. You are in the best position to start up something. You have nothing to lose.

The importance of niche markets

Don’t try to solve all the problems in the world for everyone. SAP does it. Microsoft does it. They are elephants. And you, tiny little startup mouse, you shouldn’t. Don’t compete with elephants. You should lazer focus. Focus on a little group of targeted people, willing to pay a lot of money for your targeted solution. That’s what we call a niche market. You should lazer focus on a niche market.

Why? Why fish in a little lake? Why not fish in the big ocean where the big money is?

Niche markets have less competition

All the big strong fishermen go fish in the ocean, where the big fishes are. You are a startup. Go fish in your little lake. There is much less competition in niche markets. You can be easily number 1 in a small market. Especially, you want to avoid going in direct competition with the elephants that have tons of money for marketing, an army of developers and the best designers in the world. They make generic products that target everything and everyone. Like MS Office, or like generic ERP systems. And there is your chance to stand out from the crowd. You are focussing on one particular group of people. You can leave out the general product features (they make the generic software messy in any way), and you can add specific features that your niche market is screaming for. Within a niche market, you can become the #1, the reference. Don’t worry, elephants will not start competing with you in your niche. Those markets are too small for them. They are too greedy to go in a low revenue niche market.

Niche markets are much more easy and cheaper to market

Did you already think about the following: if you build a product that solves every problem in this world for everyone, then how will you pitch your product? How will you sell it? How will you market it? How will you bring on new customers? Quite difficult.

Within a niche, things get more easy. You can find and target your audience. You know where they are, what they do, and how to reach them. Targeting dentists? Try to go do conferences for dentists. Targeting lawyers? Try to get a list of all email addresses / telephone numbers of all lawyers in your town/state/region. That’s achievable.

Moreover, you can’t only reach them more easy, you can also pitch more easy. Your messages, your communication, your blog and your company name can be oriented towards them. While people out of your target market will not care about anything you do, people within your niche market will care a lot! They realize that you are there to solve their specific problems. You are not building just any CRM, you are building a CRM for dentists. You are not building a project management tool, but you are building a PM tool only for construction companies. With their specific wish-list of features. And without the generic things that make the software more difficult to use. It will not be difficult to convince them that your product is better for them then the generic tools out there. You have a pitch, a sales argument, an advantage over the generic products out there.

Niche markets are willing to pay you a lot of money

So, you have been building something exclusively for the 5000 people of type ABC in this world, that is solving a burning pain that only they have in their specific type of business? Congrats, you now have 5000 people that are willing to pay you a lot of money. Why? Because there is just one solution in this world that does exactly what they need! There are lots of other so-so-generic solutions, but only one that really does what they need. With their features, their vocabulary, supporting their kind of business. You are an expert in solving their pain. And they are willing to pay you for that, much more then for a generic so-so solution.

Word of mouth can go fast within niche markets

Last year, a big Belgian Renault car dealer contacted our web and mobile software agency to solve one of their biggest administration pains. They grew a lot over the last 10 years, and wanted to automate a big part of their administration. There was no software on the market for this, since the specific administration problems they have, are only for bigger Renault car dealers. Microsoft, Dell, Oracle or SAP are not interested in this market, it’s way too small for them.

So, we carefully listened to their needs, and wrote a very specific piece of online software, automating lots of their administration. This software saves them 2 weeks of work per month.

Today, one year later, 3 other dealers are using the same software. They contacted us. Word did spread. One month from now, we are asked to come presenting our “Renault Car Dealer Niche Software” (we don’t have a name for it yet!), to a Renault Car Dealer meeting with the 25 biggest dealers in Belgium. They all know and talk about this software, even before we did any single marketing or sales.

Why did that happen? Since we solved a very specific problem, for a very specific market, that is too small for the SAP’s, Oracles and Googles of this world. We don’t have to pitch our software or explain what it does. In 2 words, dealers know what the software is about, and realize that our software can win them 2 weeks of work per month. Some dealers really wanted to kiss us, “finally, a solution for this pain in the ass administration” you almost hear them say.

Since we solve a burning pain in a niche market, we don’t have any troubles finding clients. They find us.

What is your niche? Can you describe your market? Can you identify your clients? If the answer is “everyone”, then please go back to the drawing board. You really really need a niche.