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  The Making It! Business Blog
by Nelson Davis

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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THIS EDITION: FIRST! IS THAT ALL THERE IS? (LINDSEY LOHAN AND THE BUSINESS WORLD)

While working diligently on my quadriceps this morning at Gold’s Gym, I looked up at one of the many TV monitors to see who was screeching out a barely comprehensible song on a video. It turned out that it was the often written about problem child, Lindsey Lohan, performing “I Want to Come First.” You could justifiably ask why Ms. Lindsey Lohan is being mentioned here in a business blog. Well, I wouldn’t recognize Lindsey Lohan if she was aiming her SUV at me in a crosswalk, but the title of her song did prompt thoughts about the state of business, both small and large, in our country today.

We seem to have become obsessed with first place being the only place that matters or is even worth discussing. Well, to that I say, Wrong!

 

Yes, anyone following business lore closely has heard that quote from Jack Welch when he ran General Electric. Roughly, it said “If you can’t be #1 or #2 in a business, then get out of that business.”

 

My contention is that an entrepreneur can build a multi-million dollar enterprise by creating a business in an obscure niche. On the Making It! TV show we have profiled over a thousand business owners, ranging from one person at a computer to publicly traded companies. One of those people, Greg Craig, built Cook Inlet Energy Supply into a four-billion dollar business before selling to a conglomerate. Speaking of very large businesses, my theory number 2 is that a thriving small business can be created just from the crumbs that invariably fall off the table of the giants. Just look at some of the companies that sprang up to build web sites, for example.

 

This past weekend at a dinner party, a hedge fund manager whom I didn’t know spent our time together telling me about his insatiable drive to be first and to prevail in a particular deal. When he wasn’t talking about that subject, he shrank a bit and seemed rather withdrawn. Anything other than first didn’t seem to raise his pulse above the resting rate. I felt a bit sorry for him even though his income is probably multiples of mine. The evidence indicates that flying outside the spotlight that shines on #1 or ‘first’ can be a desirable business strategy. Remember when Avis Rent-A-Car had the slogan “We’re #2 so we try harder?” Even among the always hungry hedge funds, there are probably some very smart operators waiting around with open check books to pick up the pieces of broken deals falling of the tables of the biggest players in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage scare.

 

Back to where this began with Ms Lindsey. Lohan. She certainly isn’t #1 in acting ability, singing, dancing or anything that most of us know about, but her personal “brand” is probably among the best known in America. That is a marketable skill and I’m pretty sure she didn’t learn it at the Wharton School of Business.

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