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The only certainty about business in the immediate future is uncertainty. Every new successful business is normally well-planned ahead. It is quite fascinating to see that the best business ideas succeed because of the need of a certain product or service, and there are hundreds of examples throughout the business and trade history that can prove this.

In the early 1950s, Warren Avis of America was the founder of The Avis Car rental business; he started renting cars out of major USA airports like Miami International and Michigan because there were not any companies doing this. There were car rental companies, certainly, but they were located in the business districts and not at the airports. Warren was a pilot and he simply could not get proper land transport at the airports where he landed. The need for this simple service made him establish his car rental business operating from airports. Avis was hugely successful and he sold his business in the mid-50s for a sum of some $77,000,000 USD in today’s money.

“But the basics of a business idea remain the same.”

With modern technology everything is different, some entrepreneurs may think. I completely disagree I’m afraid. Technology, if anything, makes us all speed things up to an incredible degree. But the basics of a business idea remain much the same as decades ago. Even centuries ago. It is very difficult to sell something that people do not need and far easier to supply the consumer with something he really needs – like face masks during the pandemic. I can guarantee some companies have done remarkably well during the lockdown because of the high demand for their products. Some companies have had very serious problems of delivery on time due to a disproportionate demand by consumers.

 

The market today has different trends if compared to other times of the past, but the basics are all still there. People dress, wear shoes, do sports, travel, buy houses and cars. Rent property whilst on holiday, eat out in restaurants and one hundred other things. Just look out for the gap or the market niche. Spend time thinking what is missing. Being a copy cat in business can work out fine, but if you enter the chosen field alone and nobody has touched that area before, your chances of a major success are far greater.

“The first thing I do when I check in at a hotel is ask for an upgrade.”

A friend once told me a story of a shoe company in Northampton, England. They sent two salesmen to Africa in the early 20th century to study the market and eventually start a business over there. One of them came back to the boss and reported that the local Africans did not fancy European leather shoes and had their own sandals made by natives, so he thought little of any possibility of marketing shoes in East Africa. The other fellow, a clever Yorkshire lad, just remarked to his boss that the Africans did not really have proper shoes and that he thought the possibilities of marketing leather shoes were excellent and he had decided to stay in Africa and sell British shoes to the locals. He was highly successful. This historical example shows us that there are always two sides to the story, and if you pick up the right one you may have hit a lucky spell.

Business in pre-pandemic days and post-pandemic days have a common denominator: the need for a product or service at the best possible price; value for money is what people want at the end of the day. If they can get it via an application on their smartphones, so much the better. In the old days, when I was in the hotel business, I used to travel and make all my hotel bookings via telephone. Now I simply use one of the various hotel booking companies. Time is priceless, so just let the applications do the job. The first thing I do when I check in at a hotel is ask for an upgrade in lieu of a discount. My success rate is not bad.

“Presentation is essential.”

There is one thing I know people do not do anymore. Haggle. Because sales are done mostly online, in their view this is no longer the case. But I do it all the time. I had a French Basque client years ago who explained to me that he asked for discounts all over the place – even when shopping in Hermes in Paris! And he always got something. He was a very well-off entrepreneur who drove a Rolls Royce and dined at Maxim’s. As a self-made man, he knew hardship as a youngster and was a great believer in the old motto of ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’. Just ask the banks, who are kings of small commission charges and what have you. Copy them. Haggle as much as you can. You shall be amazed at your savings.

Every business idea has different ways of working out its development, but the basics are not that different from those in the past. Presentation is essential. Today, being in this digital world it is of paramount importance. There is a general feel amongst the public of wanting better quality even if you have to pay a little more. We are all aware that certain products made in some far away jurisdictions may be cheaper, but if the quality factor is not there this product will not last in the market. It may attract certain customers but the right approach is to obtain the right product at a good price. And do bear in mind that in Asia there are different levels of quality. From very low third class to top of the range which comes at a higher price obviously. The future may be closer to the higher end.

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