A Side Bar on Complexity
Here I went out on a bit of a tangent for my presentation to talk about how I see various business models being successfully layered with simple and complex functions to create a winning environment for their customers.
For myself to explain everything I am trying to do is not so straight forward. I begin by searching out small suppliers in far flung countries around the world, rooting through their wares for the most beautiful items and bringing them back here. Only then to tell a story about them, sell them to crafters and creators here in North America. Which has to go well in order for me to be able to turn around revenue from those sales and find new startups and business in small communities that I can fund through creation of micro loans. Many things can go wrong in any step of the process.
When I began I set my company a goal that was easier to communicate to my customer. Sell truly bold and unique fabrics. My customer doesn't need to know anything about my back-office to know whether what they are looking at is beautiful to them or not. I know what result I'm shooting for. As long as I execute on the beauty, I can do as much after work as I want.
Once customers are on board for the beauty I have time to bring them into the fold about my whole story.
I think the average person is smarter than we like to give credit. I think people can handle complex ideas. Things don’t need to be dumbed down just to sell. But in the early days of a business, I do think it is a good idea to have a simple marker of success. Get one foundational thing very right. The complexity is sure to follow.
If people only buy your product because it has a good altruistic story behind it, it is only living up to half of it's responsibility as a product.
If people buy your product because they love it, they will love it even more if they find out after the fact that their purchase is still doing generative work somewhere around the world as a bonus.
This led me to look around at other businesses and see if there are places where
Layering Simplicity on top of Complexity
The idea here is to make sure if your business idea is already complex, make sure that the way that people access it is simple. Simple access to a complicated choice.
Example Case - Trader Joe’s: Anyone who knows Trader Joes knows that they march to the beat of a different drummer. And if you love Trader Joes, it's a good chance that is the very reason you love them. They made a splash in the retail grocery industry over a quiet few decades by making sure they operate their stores in a way that makes sense to them as shoppers, not on industry norms. They don’t advertise much, don’t do social media. They use handwritten signs in their stores, they rotate products regularly, they encourage shoppers to taste anything they want and a million other little differences that make them feel unique. The biggest difference is that they have about one third of the SKU’s of a traditional grocery store. They carry way less variety and are way more profitable for it. The most profitable grocery stores by square foot in the world.
They don’t have 70 kinds of ketchup. They have 2 Ketchups. A couple of types of hash browns, a few brands of chardonnay. They keep it simple. They know a grocery store of thousands of items is complex - so they don’t layer on more complexity.
They layer the simplicity of choice onto the complexity of grocery shopping. And their customers appreciate them for it.
Layering Complexity on top of Simplicity
Example Case - Beef Jerky Outlet: There is a place in Orlando that I used to go simply because they had hundreds of kinds of jerky. Begin with the simple concept of dried meat. Layered on as much complexity as they can get through the door. Animals of every variation. Alligator, kangaroo, all these wonderful, wild and potentially awful types of jerky to experiment with. But the discerning factor is that you can tell what you are looking at from 100 feet away from the store. You aren’t walking in that store if you want a vacuum filter. You can see the simplicity of the business from the outside, and only people who are interested in buying jerky are going to walk in. Once Jerky people are inside, bombard them with as much complexity as you want, and they'll love you for it.
People everywhere around the world are so bloody complex. So complicated. That if you have the dam fool idea that you want to help them you better keep it simple.
We have our own motivations, shortcomings, relationships and pressures. Our own pressure we are put on other people. To truly think you can step into someone’s world and do anything except help them go down in flames is just the height of absurdity.
But we keep doing it. And sometimes it works.
My story about how I failed to keep it simple and failed to help. Next....
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