A recent story on public radio talked about the logistics of pursuing smugglers of coveted black rhino horns. The officer interviewed made the point that the discoveries made in this case also helped uncover smugglers of guns, drugs, and even human traffickers. His point was that the skills needed to bring in the banned aphrodisiac were applicable to smuggling all sorts of things. In 2014, Uber, the logistics app that facilitates a new type of taxi and limo service, moved into different areas too. The company introduced UberRush, a courier service designed to move stuff instead of people. According to The Washington Post, “The same back-end technology that Uber has built to track drivers and connect them to riders can easily be used to order and follow deliveries. All that changes is the cargo on board and the mode of transportation, a detail around which the company is becoming increasingly agnostic.”
Back in 2004 when IBM made their momentous shift from equipment sales to software and systems consulting, it capitalized on the protocols and practices it had constructed to run its previous business model. These proprietary programs became the foundation of what has since become a global business with over $22 billion in revenue. What’s more, the new model provides IBM with both higher-margin recurring revenue and reduced volatility.
So what do black rhino horns, Uber’s logistics, IBM, and your business have in common? Quite simply, you’re sitting on a gold mine of proven protocols that are both marketable and monetizable. The programs and procedures that you have created over the years are exactly what other businesses are looking for.
37 Signals, the creator of Basecamp, was a web design company founded in 1999. But in mid-2004 the company’s focus shifted from web design to web application development when they found a significant market for the management software they created to run their own business. The transition was so successful that 37 Signals changed their company name to Basecamp (their first product) to focus entirely on their flagship.
Before you get frustrated and disappointed because you don’t have a great piece of software or logistics protocol to sell, understand that your new product or service can simply be a systemized version of what you’re already doing. Business authors from Jim Collins in Good To Great to Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited to John Warillow in Built to Sell have all written about the importance of creating replicable procedures to do what you do. Not only do these systems improve your business, they are highly valuable to others.
Many successful speakers in the National Speakers Association, from Mikki Williams to Lou Heckler to Patricia Fripp to Doug Stevenson, have taken the things they’ve learned over their years on the platform and turned them into valuable programs for all the people who want to succeed in the speaking business. Some of their programs teach stage skills, some teach business logistics, and still others are about marketing and promotion. But while all of them are simply a reutilization of proven programs that the practitioners have already used to build their own businesses, each has produced new business opportunities and new revenue streams for their creators – sometimes rivaling or even surpassing the success of the original business they’re cribbed from.
The Washington Post says, “Uber foresees – as Amazon and eBay do, too – that the next growth opportunity in a shifting economy isn’t facilitating digital marketplaces: it’s moving physical stuff. It’s figuring out urban logistics in a world where crowded cities will only become more so, where e-commerce is actually making congestion worse, where the rise of ‘sharing’ has created a need for coordinating the mass joint use of cars, tools, tasks, and dinner.” Most importantly, these companies have figured out that what they already know how to do creates valuable practices and unlimited opportunities.
You can take advantage of what you already know, too.