Mental Model Posts ‘Scaling’

The Story of Les Schwab and His Pride in Performance

Schwab Close

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Business often comes down to a core set of principles.  And the story of Les Schwab is no exception.  Keeping things in their simplest form (Reductionism) is what allows us to arrive at a core set of principles, but this is often difficult to do. Reductionism is a key aspect of understanding anything.  If we apply this concept to business, it always comes down to people.  It really comes down to decisions, but decisions are made by people.  And what I love about the Les Schwab story is that he so clearly understood the importance of this.  He loved people.  And if you’re in business, it really helps to love people – no matter how weird, how exotic, how aloof, or how awkward.  Read More »

Three Mental Models of Successful Entrepreneurs

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Photo by Stuck in Customs

Almost every aspect of business would be considered a soft science.  This means there are no strict rules for starting, managing, or growing a business.  It also means business is more art than science.

Without the predictive ability to determine success, it’s better to develop a system of thought.  And the best system of thought is a latticework of mental models.  Induction, or the prediction of unobserved events from knowledge of observed (similar) ones, is the result of a well constructed latticework.  And induction is the ability to go from specific concepts to a multidisciplinary understanding of the world.  This ability is critical in entrepreneurship.

There are three mental models that should constantly be on the forefront of every entrepreneur’s mind.  Read More »

A System of Marketing: The Story of John H. Patterson and National Cash Register

Cash Register

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Mental Models Used: , ,

In 1884, a small, wiry, middle-aged man named John Henry Patterson acquired the majority stock of a blandly named company called National Manufacturing Company.  That same year, Patterson renamed the company National Cash Register Company (let’s call it NCR, for short).  Although it was his first entrance into the cash register business, he realized the potential of the cash register immediately.  And Patterson, being forty years old at the time, had a fairly clear idea of what he wanted in a company.  He set right to work on creating a uniform management system, which included a uniform system of marketing.  Read More »

There’s No Best Age to Start a Business: The Story of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart

Walton

Photo by tsweden

After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1940, Sam Walton took a job with J.C. Penney.  He was 22 years old.  He spent five years with J.C. Penney learning the retail industry.  In 1945, Walton became an entrepreneur and bought a Ben Franklin variety store in Arkansas for $25,000.  He was 27 years old.  Walton spent five years growing his Ben Franklin store.  But in 1950, after Walton’s landlord refused to renew the five year lease he had on the Ben Franklin store location, Walton had no choice but to sell the franchise.  He sold it for a fair price, and then had to start all over again.  Walton was now 32, and it was at this age when he opened his first Walton’s Five and Dime (again in Arkansas).  But it wasn’t until he was 44 years old that he opened the first Wal-Mart.  It was a very gradual progression.  So, does age really matter when starting a business?  I doubt it.  There is no best age to start a business, no perfect time – none of that.  And Sam Walton is the perfect example of this.  Read More »

How to Avoid a Bad Business: The Ravages of Commoditization

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Photo by Stuck in Customs

Certain aspects of business can behave in fairly predictable ways.  One of the ways, which is more painful than funny, is the tendency of products or services to become commodities over time.  When this happens, it’s often five mental models that come together and drive everything towards commoditization.

First of all, Zipf’s Law (R.I.P. George Zipf) has been repeatedly observed in many different environments.  Zipf noticed that the most common word in the English language appeared 10 times more often than the tenth most common word.  He noticed it in other languages as well – he got excited.  What he really noticed was the phenomenon we now call “winner takes all.”  So in any market, this is at work.  Get to number one – it’s just better that way.  Read More »