The other day, a BusinessWeek reporter contacted me with a question about entrepreneurial success.
She wanted my thoughts on a new business opportunity that one of their readers was considering.
The opportunity was "to open a sports store to sell products just from the four major sports teams in my city."
I hated the concept.
I immediately wrote back to the reporter:
"Is there really a need for this store? Who else is currently selling these items (stadiums? national retailer like Champs?) If there is no directly competing store, maybe there is no market? Is it hard to purchase these items online? I would think most of these items are easily found online at decent prices.
Will you offer anything that a national chain (http://www.champssports.com/ ) doesn't. Even a formerly local store (http://www.cosbysports.com/  in NY) now sells all teams' stuff online. And Cosby has a lot of unique items (e.g., autographed equipment and pictures that you can't find elsewhere).
The only thing that I think could work is offering unique items that you can't find elsewhere, mainly stuff like autographed pictures/equipment and collector's items. This stuff is available on eBay, but many people still like seeing/touching used stuff over buying online. With new items, I can't see this concept working since there's too much competition.
Finally, note that with the new items, the online stores have so many items. A physical store can only have so many SKUs or the inventory cost will go through the roof.
Once again, the concept only seems to work if the store offers items not available elsewhere (which will also make it more authentic - which is GOOD)."
So, why I am telling you all this?
The point that I want you to get is that your success in business is predicated on just one thing - your ability to solve the needs of your customers better than alternative methods.
In this case, unless the store carried merchandise that others didn't, it simply didn't solve customer needs any better.
So even if this entrepreneur quit their job, raised money and worked 24 hours a day, they probably would fail.
You need to worker smarter and not harder. And working smarter means that you are always looking to better satisfy customer needs; since that is the key.
Whether you are a detergent company looking to get clothes even cleaner, or a chair manufacturer looking to make chairs even more comfortable at a lower price, you must constantly be thinking about solving your current and potential customers' needs.