Monthly Archives: July 2013

"Can’t Someone Else Do It?" is Necessary but not Sufficient as a Business Justification

I always recommend humor when you’re trying to convince someone of something. Please watch this very short video as a Primer before reading this article. The reason for the boldface will be clear soon, I promise.
http://vimeo.com/50867951

Ok, let’s talk about Prim. Prim, please don’t take this the wrong way, I am just making an example out of you. Here’s a glowing article about them:
http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/25/prim-laundry/

This business suffers from the Free Pony Initiative problem, often felt in my state of Washington. Many years back, voters approved I-776, a measure to drop car license tab fees to $30/year. A friend & I joked that the ballot should have read:

  • I want a Free Pony.
  • I do not want a Free Pony.
Because voter initiatives often come down to pure 10 second ad campaigns, where Tim says “Do you want to pay less for your car tabs?” And you say, yes. I want a Free Pony. And Washington state residents are happy, especially 5 year old girls. You have locked in the 5 year old girl vote.

Ok, I overreached. Because this vote was actually very close, which helped me regain trust in the system. And Free Ponies aren’t free due to care & feeding, but that’s just a breakdown in my analogy. Let me get back to the Prim thing.

Prim is asking a classic business question, “Can’t someone else do it?” Think about it – many successful businesses answer this question. I don’t want to find a page on the Internet by typing in random URLs until I find it. Can’t someone else do it? Yeah, someone can – Google & Bing. They are basically doing it for you when you type in “where can I find a state where small horses are given away through voter initiative,” and Bingle tells you “Washington.”

So yes, I do not want to wash my laundry. I do not want to clean my house. I do not want to take out the trash. I do not want to chop the onion for my mise en place. Can’t someone else do it? 

Sure, but if you are a business that is offering to do this, stop & ask yourself:
  • Do you do it more efficiently than others? Do you have a competitive advantage that is sustainable? Perhaps Yin Yin Wu is the world’s best launderer (yes that’s the right word), and she’s doing all the laundry by hand? Maybe she built a robot that launders better than the Mafia (mixed metaphor)?
  • How much will people pay for your service? Call that x. Let me give you a business equation that I provide all of the companies in my portfolio:
    • If (x < Cost of you paying people to drive to a house & pick up laundry & drop it at the laundromat & pick it back up & drop it off & handle disputes where you lose the laundry or damage it & handle cases where your drivers steal things or crash their cars)
      • doNotDoBusiness();
  • And let me provide a related equation:
    • If (x is NOT bad) AND (you become profitable & successful)
      • How long do you think it will be before LaundromatX starts cutting out the middleman & offering pick up services? I’ve seen this offered before, but the cost is so prohibitive that only Silicon Valley Dreamers use it.
Before I started writing this, I also considered, Can’t Someone Else Do It? I’d rather go down to Microsoft’s fancy new Cafe 31 & have a Chicken & Waffle Sandwich (no joke, delicious). But GhostBlogWritingService.com was not invented yet. Hmm, can I pitch you on a business idea, TechCrunch?