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Sat 22 Mar 2003
The Search for the Ultimate Business Machine
Category : Commentary/TUBM.txt
I'm not thinking about Macs for a change, at least not directly.
The Ultimate Business Machine is a business that will generate income, lots of income, even when the owners are not physically there to do the work.
The archetypical example of a business machine is McDonald's (look Behind the Arches). You start off like Ray Kroc (McDonald's founder) with an idea for the value you are uniquely able to deliver. And for which people are willing to pay, such that you can make a good profit.
But that's not enough. You've got to think about how you're going to deliver that value day in and day out. Because, if you can't find a way to organise everything into a system, so that various tasks can be performed by mere mortals, you're going to wear yourself out sooner rather than later (as described most soberly by Michael E. Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited, "Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It".)
The problem is - 90% of the work of building a business is often pure drudgery. That's why Bill Gates said in one interview that you shouldn't wake up in the morning and decide you want to be an entrepreneur. "So let's see, should I be a baker and make cookies or something?"
I was triggered to think about this when I rode past The Heeren this morning. This is a very fashionable place. It's hit a sweet spot by converting its upper two levels into a street smart bazaar for the teenies. With HMV below and a lot of cool looking (I'm so out of date I don't even know the right words to describe it) shops in the middle, this place is overrun by pubescent schoolkids in the afternoons. And we all know that they are the only ones still spending money with abandon.
Anyway, it's early this morning and a bunch of kids were converting the open space at the side walk into a catwalk - leggy models and a DJ's booth perched dramaticaly out of a hole in the backdrop and all. As far as I can see, everybody's young and fresh and keen.
I think a lot of our kids are going to do businesses of their own. First as a hobby. And then they'll find nothing beats the fun of trying to make your own ideas work (did I mention drudgery before?).
And they'll be comfortable with technology. I can imagine photos and biops of the models in iPhoto (or its equivalent), a calendar on the web for bookings, a web site for the jobs they've done and the rates they charge, and e-mail and SMS to tie all these loose network of models, choreographers, set designers, DJs and marketing guys together, and of course, some sort of finance system to keep the score and dole out the proceeds.
So you see. There's always a system, no matter what you do. And technology is at the heart of the system.
Next time you eat at McDonald's, think about how Ray Kroc could have imagined a system that could be operated, anywhere in the world, by kids and by aunties and uncles who are barely literate. The magic is in the system. And in the care that goes into choosing the machinery that will drive the system. Can you hear your cash register ringing from as far away as your vacation home in Perth?