I know nothing about business. I was in show business for thirty years, but my focus was almost entirely on “show.” I paid no attention to “business.” The checks came on time, that’s the only business I cared about.
The reason I went into show business is because I couldn’t do anything else. The bonus is that show business pays well, and I realized why, which generated to the only insight about business I ever had.
Financially, show business is an enormous pie. A multi-billion dollar industry. Even if your share is a miniscule sliver of that pie, you still end up with an appreciable amount of money. You’re in a business that’s a small pie, you get, proportionally, the same sized sliver, and you can’t make a living.
The one thought I ever had about business: Work for a big pie.
Fundamentally, however, I do not understand how businesses work. I’d go down a street, and I’d see all these restaurants. And then I’d see there’s a new restaurant, displaying an “Opening Soon” banner. I’d look at this and I’d think, “Everybody’s already eating someplace. Where is this new restaurant going to get any customers?”
I just don’t get it. In order to survive, this new restaurant has to get people to stop eating at the restaurant they’re already eating at, and start eating at theirs. How exactly do you pull that off?
Do they sneak into other restaurants and steal some of their chairs, so that less people will be able to eat there?
“What’s going on here? Suddenly, Vincenzo’s is always full. They’re sitting three to a table, but it’s full. We need to find new place to eat.”
The new restaurant may serve better food. But people have their habits. One habit, I suppose, it the habit of trying new restaurants. But most habits involve inertia. That’s pretty much what habits are about.
“You wanna try someplace different?”
That “eh” can put that new place right into Chapter Eleven.
So the question is, you’re opening a new business – whatever it is – how do you know there aren’t enough of those places already and they really don’t need yours? Sure, sometimes, the decision is easy. You’re walking down a street, and everyone’s going,
“It’s lunchtime, and all we have here are ‘Shoe Repairs.’ Where we gonna eat?”
Bim bam boom – you open a restaurant – and business is through the roof. What you don’t do? Open another “Shoe Repair.” Of course, even there, you have a dream, you take a shot. Hope springs eternal.
“There can never be enough ‘Shoe Repairs.’”
You open yours up – and nobody comes in. In turns out, there were exactly enough “Shoe Repairs.” Yours was the one just after enough. Finding yourself the “one more ‘Shoe Repair’ than was necessary”, you go out of business, and you’re replaced by a nail salon. Apparently, there can never be enough of those.
That’s one thing I don’t understand: How do you know how thinly you can spread the customer base. Another thing I don’t understand is, some businesses seem “Filled to Capacity”, and yet people continue flocking into them. Like the lawyer business. Every year, law schools graduate thousands of attorneys. The surprising thing is, they all seem to have something to do. You never see a person carrying a briefcase, and a sign, saying,
“Will litigate for food.”
They’re all busy, lawyering up a storm. And then, there’s the other end of the spectrum – a business so specialized, I have no idea how people can survive in it.
Kites. That’s all they sell. Maybe balls of twine. Doll repair. How do you stay afloat in such an enterprise? How do you pay for college?
“Princeton tuition. All ‘doll repair’ money.”
Really? You can actually do that?
Just for fun, I tried to think of a product so specialized, it would be impossible to find anyone selling it on the Internet. The product that popped into my mind?
Yes, my mind is quite odd.
I Google “matador capes” on my computer. I click on the little white “x”, and there it is:
Offering everything the fully-equipped matador might require.
Aside from thinking how proud the matador outfitter’s mother must be –
“My Kenny is the biggest man in the business.”
“Which business in that?”
“What does it matter? He’s the biggest!” –
the question that initially comes to mind is,
“How many matadors are there?”
Probably not that many, right? I mean, full time. Still, for those tiny number of matadors just breaking into the business, if they don’t want to fight bulls in khakis and a t-shirt, they will definitely need to visit
“The One-Stop Destination For All Your Matadoring Needs.”
And needs there definitely are. For the working matador, upgrades and replacement gear are ongoing.
“My cape doesn’t scare bulls anymore. They just look at it and go, ‘Yeah, so?’”
“My ‘Suit of Lights’ has a horn hole in it.”
“My matador hat fell off in the ring, and this crazy bull ate it.”
“They lost my beaded sword scabbard at the dry cleaners.”
“I’m out of those things that you stick in their heads.”
Toroshopping.com – They’ve got it all. And regular toroshoppers have to maintain their patronage, because, with its highly limited clientele, it would be easy for toroshopping.com’s business to drop to a level where it would no longer make sense to stay open, they could totally disappear, and then matadors, both active and aspiring, would have no place to go for their matadoring needs.
By the way, do you think there’s an actual venue? A store you could walk into, filled with matadors, browsing and trying things on in the back? Or is it a website without a store, just these people who keep dusty boxes of matador chazzerai (stuff) stacked in their basement, and they just dig it out, when an e-mailing matador orders something on-line?
I am now on a quest. I will not stop, until I find a business so unpopular it is not even on the Internet. When I’m done here, the next business I plan to Google:
I wonder if there’s a place that does that. And if there isn’t, perhaps I should invest in one.
I mean, those crocodiles have, like, three hundred teeth!