It's coming up to 10 years since I finished my MBA (and I'm looking forward to catching up with my old classmates at out reunion in September!).
As I looked back at my old notes I spotted my notes about Gilette launching the safety razor in Malaysia many decades ago.
Gilette's model at the time was simple. Everywhere they had launched, they would give away the razor and then sell you the blades. It's a model that has served them well, and it's still their core business model to this day. (It's also the model underpinning the computer printer industry, the mobile phone industry and quite a few service industries: tie the client into your platform and then sell them the eongoing follow-up. It's a very powerful marketing and sales model, that can work surprisingly well in coaching, consulting and advice businesses, but that's a different post!).
So two sales men were sent from head office to Kuala Lumpur to set up a new sales office.
Within hours of landing the first one was on the phone back home.
"Stop the boat! Send the shipment back! Half the men here are Muslim: they don't shave. And the rest still use a rusty knife and running water. We'll never be able to sell razors."
The other salesman wandered around for a few hours, then headed back to the office and picked up the phone to report his initial assessment.
"Well," he said. Half the guys here are Muslims and they haven't shaved since they hit 16, and the rest still use a rusty knife and some running water. The market's wide open! Send another ship with everything we've got!"
In any situation there are challenges and there are opportunities.
Unfortunately, the way we are educated, and the approach most employers then reinforce, tends to focus on "find the problem others have missed. Look for the reasons this is a bad idea. Identify all the risks. Convince yourself this is a no-go. And only then decide whether you're going to take action!"
Is it any wonder people talk themselves out of the opportunities that are right in front of them, and then say there weren't any to start with.
So the question is, are you seeing non-shavers everywhere you look? Or people who need to start shaving?