Business Success. It’s All About Simplicity

After the whole debacle earlier this year with that company that shall remain nameless, I went into a bit of a reclusive mode. Maybe even dealing with a little depression.

I've been battling with a lot in my head but I finally started picking myself back up.

One of the things that have helped me is reconnecting with the basics. Talking to people and just taking one step at a time.

Just going back to the basic premises of a business, keeping things simple yet effective.

Here is a simple premise for a business...

Provide a valuable service or product and find the audience that will pay for it. Then present it to them.

Or if you want to flip it around, you can find an audience that has a need and you can fulfill that need in the form of a product or service.

Seems simple enough, right?

But sometimes as a business grows, it becomes complex, full of extra stuff. In some cases the complexity is necessary, but many times it isn't.

I had a good reminder of that simplicity earlier today while watching my co-host Kim Dang interview Marcus Campbell.

I was blown away that during a part of the interview, Marc said that he uses FrontPage 2003 to build websites.

Still today. Yes, Frontpage 2003. He called it the best $200 he ever spent.

I even asked if he was just trolling us with that. I mean anybody today would almost laugh at that. I must admit that if I didn't know Marc and hadn't heard the beginning of the interview I would have closed the interview right there and then and laughed my way to refill my cup of coffee.

I mean who uses FrontPage 2003 in 2018?

But I ate a slice of humble pie when he said he wasn't trolling and he still builds sites this way and teaches with it.

But why?

Because it works. It's simple, effective and it gets the job done. And apparently, it makes him a great deal of money with niche affiliate sites and teaching about the whole thing.

But he was right, you know.

If it gets the job done, and you know how to use it, and you can be effective with it. Then use it.

I mean I remember using Frontpage back in the day, I think I started using it in like 1999?

I remember I built a site in 2003 with it and I was pretty proud of it because I made some custom buttons by hand which I then scanned and tweaked a bit. The good old days.

As Marcus talked about it for a moment or so I was also reminded of Joel Bauer. When I attended one of his training events I remember him using a pretty old camera to record his videos.

The training was like 5 years ago, but the camera was old even at that time, like 3 or 4 years old. For someone making several million dollars per year as a single person business, you would have thought that he'd have a nice state of the art camera.

But no, it was a simple point and shoot pocket sized camera. I want to say it was a canon but it might have even been Kodak.

But in a short group Q&A he explained that he used that specific camera because it produced an AVI file and this allowed him to quickly transfer the file and edit it on his Windows computer without any formatting, converting, rendering, etc.

As a Youtube content creator, I know how much time can be wasted in getting your file to the computer and then making sure your editing software can read it and then rendering it quickly.

He had simply eliminated as much wasted time from that process as possible. Keeping things simple, yet effective.

And this would be the end of the blog post if it was that simple, but no. He took it a step further, in order to create his "graphics" for slide decks and presentations he would use the very old school Microsoft Photodraw.

That's right. A piece of software that was already dead and unsupported. But his answer was the same. It gets the job done, it's quick and easy to use.

I'm pretty sure he has updated his stuff quite a bit by now, or at least I hope so but the point is that sometimes you don't need a lot of fancy stuff and complex systems and all that stuff.

You just need to get shit done, quickly, effectively and with as little friction as possible.

But my favorite story about simplicity is this one

I'll tell you one more story, that's of a client of mine that has an airplane parts company. Pretty unique business.

One day when I was still doing computer and network support, I went in to fix something on his local network.

I was already building WordPress websites for clients so I thought I'd pitch him an upgrade to his ordering and inventory system.

He said, Nah. Not interested, my system is great as it is right now.

I pressed him a little bit and he said, I'll tell you what let's finish this up and I'll show you something.

So I fixed the issues I was there to fix and then asked him to show me what happened.

So we walked over to this little cubicle thing in the middle of his warehouse.

As we walked there I told him he'd be able to get SMS alerts, inventory notifications, he would be able to order from his phone, have pictures of all the items and more.

And he wouldn't have to walk for 3 minutes from his office to this place in his warehouse.

Lots of shiny objects for him to salivate over and for me to make money on. Don't laugh, I was green and trying to make a buck.

So he stands over this dirty old keyboard, and when I say old, I mean OLD. The keyboard was connected to somewhere behind a pile of clutter and next it on the desk was an old monitor and a couple feet away an old dot-matrix printer.

I really mean, old.

The monitor came to life and it wasn't years old, it was decades old. It was not even a color monitor, my jaw dropped. It was an old monochrome monitor, not that bios-like blue-white color, not Windows 95 colors, not even that green on black Matrix colors, but orange. Orange on a dark gray background.

You could see lines of characters burned into the screen after so many years of service.

A few moments later he began frantically hitting keys on the old dirty keyboard, I could see different screens come up and flash away and I could see him checking boxes on and off, tabulating to the next field as fast as I can type.

He would pause briefly on some screens screen to review something and then continue on. About a minute later he said, ok I'm done. Moments before he said that,  the dot matrix printer came online and started spitting stuff out.

The printer ended up working for about 10 minutes while he explained a few things to me.

He said, when we're done talking I'll have the reports for the week and the reports for today. I also reviewed about half a dozen orders that needed to be completed. I placed all the orders and found out I was running low in a few items while I have an overstock of other parts that needed to be moved quickly.

He had notified the floor manager of this and was also printing a report for him.

He did all that in about one minute of keyboard work.

Everything he accomplished, he did so without a mouse, without waiting for a browser to load, without having to log into different systems and click here and there. Without typing an email, without hesitation.

Then he said, you know that system you're telling me about, tell me more, do you think I can do all that in a couple minutes also?

I had no choice but to say no.

I could have said, no, but I can get you pretty nice graphics and reports with interactive charts and projections automatically emailed you daily. I can tell you who ordered what and at what time. We can email all your customers on demand.

I could have said that I would provide visibility into his supply-chain.

I could have a 3d picture of each of the products --mind you he had over 16000 SKUs-- I could have said a lot of things and try to make the sale.

I mean, I should have said at least a couple of those things.  That system was old and had to be replaced, right?

Maybe.

I could have pointed out that the system could die at any time and he'd be stuck until someone could fix it or replace it. Then he'd really be in trouble.

But I didn't. I just said, nope, you are right.

There was no way I could compete with the simplicity and efficiency of his configuration. This was 2006 or 2007 and he had been using this since 1984. Old habits die hard, but this was a little more than that.

The company was highly profitable with revenues in the high 8-figure ranges, with a very lean staff.

So what business person in their right mind would muck with that system?

After seeing that little demo, there was no way I could introduce all this complexity I had in mind for the sake of using arguably a "better" system.

Sometimes, simplicity beats everything else because it's profitable. Strive to avoid complexity for the sake of complexity and K.I.S.S.

One comment

  1. This is such an important point. And I’m a huuuuge fan of FrontPage 2003! I used to build EVERYTHING with it and loved the simplicity.

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