For the past nine years I have owned and operated two non-web based businesses. The first one I sold when I graduated high school, it was a landscape construction and maintenance company. My second and current company does environmentally friendly industrial concrete cleaning. While both businesses are profitable they did not seem to fit into the paths laid out for young entrepreneurs. For a field that prides itself on thinking outside the box, the boxes are incredibly well defined.
Our twitter feeds and bookshelves are filled with stories of tech entrepreneurs having millions of active users or writing some new app, but what about the things that aren’t in plain sight? What about the company that changes the air filters in your office? What about the company that keeps your trees trimmed or your dumpster empty? These old school companies keep the world spinning.
You may be saying “Hey but all of their services are the same…why are they noteworthy?” But all of their services are not the same, each company that has achieved considerable success has some secret sauce. This does not have to mean lines of code or patented molecule. Secret sauce can be anything from knowing the optimal time to change an air filter to managing 1000 hourly laborers.
Some of the secret sauces that I like:
1(800)GOT-JUNK I love this company because all they do is take away your old junk. BUT your old junk is taken away legally by uniformed employees in a clean truck. You also know how much it is going to cost before they show up. 1(800)GOT-JUNK took away all of the things that people hated about throwing away old shit. Their secret sauce isn’t complicated, its just the right market and the right application.
RotoRooter This company took a special tool (Drain unclogger/water blaster) and built a business around the services you could do with it. After they made a name for themselves for unplugging drains with this tool they expanded to offer many other plumbing services. The cool thing about RotoRooter is that a drain blaster is not a complicated nor horribly expensive tool. They offered 24hr emergency services and knowledgeable technicians along with outstanding service. This basic model propelled them to a national company.
Freightwing Again I love things that are simple and have a huge impact. This little composite wing sits under a semi trailer and reduces fuel use by 7%. I hope that seems as huge to you as it does to me. This means that this device pays for itself in a few cross country trips. It is idiotic for any company with semi trailers to not have these installed. There isn’t anything hiding in the picture, all this thing does is deflect air. No code, no chips no sensors. This company is genius, they made a product that is so cheap to install, takes no effort to use and saves fuel. It also does not last forever (accidents, rocks, deer) meaning repeat customers.
Just because your company isn’t web based doesn’t mean you can forget about computers.
Please don’t do what I did with my landscape company. Don’t forget about your website and let it look bad, don’t forget to allow your customers to pay online! (If it makes sense) Though your business model would probably work advertising only in the yellow pages, don’t do it! We rely on the internet for every part of our life but every part of out life does not rely on the internet.
You think we will be able to wire a house with a few keystrokes in five years? I wouldn’t bet on it. People are still the krux of business and they will be for the foreseeable future. So remember that internet companies are not the only option. They are just one of the options.
Zach Hamilton is a student entrepreneur at Arizona State University. His company DevilWash is in the process of expanding and building a franchise plan.
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Category: Startup Advice