2 years ago
I’m sure you’ve probably heard the following quotation before – sometimes it is attributed to the Bible, and other times to an ancient Chinese proverb…
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
But what you may not have heard - or at least I hadn’t until yesterday - was another quotation attributed to Karl Marx, which draws on the original and goes something like this:
“Sell a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.”
Now I really do like that, and it carries a very important message for anyone in any kind of business. If your business is one where you provide a one-time-once-and-for-all solution for your customers, then you’re probably going to struggle. Why? Because you’re missing out on the most important factor responsible for a business developing and growing… Repeat business and what is known as residual income.
I mean, if your customers have no reason to come back to you after the original transaction, then you will face a constant and ongoing battle to attract a constant stream of new people to take advantage of your once in a lifetime, ‘Permafix’ solution.
So if you do have that sort of business, what’s to be done about it?
Well let’s take Karl Marx’s analogy in its most literal sense.
All of those people you’ve just taught to fish are going to need some form of fishing tackle, and maybe a boat too. Can you diversify your efforts and supply these to them, or enter into a joint venture with someone else who can? And then when they get the fish back home, they’re going to need a knife to prepare it, and something to cook it in. They have to buy it from somewhere, so why can’t that somewhere be you?
When they start catching their own fish, they’ll be quite satisfied at first, but pretty soon they’re going to get sick of just eating basic fish. They might want to buy some exciting fish recipes, and they’re going to need other ingredients to cook those recipes. At the very least, they’re going to want some potato’s to make chips with (because I’ve just decided we’re doing all this in Blackpool!) Somebody has to supply them all.
So it might as well be you again.
And then, some of the people you teach to fish will be so enthused about how it’s changed their whole lives that they’ll be keen to spread the word to others – to make a business out of teaching others to fish. You could teach them how to become teachers – maybe even set up a franchise and take a cut of the profits that way.
I’m sure by now that you get the point (well if you don’t there’s no real hope for you!) that even if you offer a one-hit solution for your customers, there are bound to be other opportunities and transactions branching off the original one (spin-offs), from which you can profit. You just need to think about what those opportunities are for you and how to best capitalise on them.
Who would have thought we could seriously learn anything real
about making money from someone like Karl Marx?
I know when I was at school (yes, it is going back a bit now), all I ever remembered learning from him was why I should give all my money away.
Maybe there’s been a big mix up then, and it was Groucho Marx who said it instead!
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