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Thinking Like An Entrepreneur
Table of Contents


Chapter 3
Men Are Cheaper Than Guns


Chapter 4
Intellectual Capital And Bootstrapping


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Thinking Like An Entrepreneur


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The Ants Effect In Big Business

  It was a hot summer day, and I went to the kitchen to get a Diet Pepsi. I saw an ant. Just one at first, but then I noticed another. As I got closer to the cupboard, I realized it was a full-scale invasion. There was a regular column of ants, army like, marching up toward the sugar bowl. I followed them back all the way out of the kitchen and down the steps leading to our back door.

  It was irritating, but also amusing to watch this little procession. I knew if I let it continue, it would become a two-way highway. Ants going to the sugar bowl to get some and then returning home with their booty. Each just mindlessly following the one in front of it to the grub and back.

  I was not about to let this happen. I went and got a ruler. No, I wasn't going to swat the little ants to death. Just an experiment. I put my ruler down. Literally. I blocked off the path. Now normally climbing a ruler or going around it should not be a problem for an ant. At least I wouldn't think so. But, then again, I'm not an entomologist either.

  My ruler totally distraught the ants. Without the one in front to follow, the ant at the rear lost focus. He didn't know what to do. The one behind him bumped into him and stopped and they just kind of stood there looking confused. One little fellow who would fit in great at a larger corporation just turned around and went the other way.

  He already knew the drill. They would need to return home, so he would just pretend that was where he was headed. I imagined the other ants asking him, "Where's the sugar?" and him answering, "You know I would have had it, but I guess I forgot. I just had so much on my mind," The other ants would understand this.

  In time, the ants would scurry around in every direction and refind the sugar. But, for now, their lives were in disarray. They had been used to just following the ant in front. But, my ruler prevented that. I had changed the environment, and they were not psychologically prepared to deal with it.

  I suddenly realized I was watching the largest corporations at work. Why was it that upstarts like amazon.com and cdnow.com could so easily overtake the role of leader away from larger more established companies like Barnes and Noble and MusicLand on the Internet? These larger companies had far more resources and experience. But they totally missed the Internet. Buzz, right over their heads.

  Established companies fear change. They have worked decades to establish a business model that is profitable to them. One that works. Once they find it, do not be the little ant to challenge the status quo. You follow along. These larger companies would never hire a real trailblazer ant. Every ant knows his place. You follow the guy in front and you lead the guy behind you. Hopefully, the ant in front has a clue where he's headed.

  But by definition entrepreneurs destroy the status quo. They change the way things are done. And when this happens, the established companies are usually way behind. Too far behind to ever recover. Amazon.com will be the leader in online book sales. No established conventional floor-spaced bookseller will overtake them. Amazon is innovating faster. They are learning to analyze their customers. With their affiliate programs, many web sites now link to amazon, and just like the river in Brazil, millions and millions of tributaries will lead back to amazon some day. I believe the count currently stands at 200,000 amazon associates.

  Amazon is only one of many examples. If you start a business that will need to compete with larger established companies, people will tell you that you can't compete with them. They are too big, too established. But, remember the ants effect and seek to find a new way of doing the business. Then put your ruler down.

  When you adopt a new way of doing business that you are sure will beat the established competition, be sure to ask yourself, "What is different now from before?" Often the established competition is hesitant to change for very good reason. Sometimes the new "killer" idea has been tried by others and has failed. Remember, larger companies got big by doing something right! With many upstarts today, there is something new. It's called the Internet.