Photo of old-fashioned knife sharpening truck in NY City, taken by Joana Miranda

Week 41 of Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit wrapped up today.  Days 292 and 293 touched on the importance of learning from and emulating successful businesses doing similar things to your business.  Of course, this is not news to me, but I appreciated very much knowing how Chris went about emulating the businesses he admired when he was starting out.  To begin with, he chose to follow and read the blogs of 4 people successfully doing what he was hoping to do; however, he didn’t just subscribe and start reading from that point forward, but went back and read each blog from its inception.  In addition, he studied the blog’s comments to see what types of posts drew positive attention and which caused controversy.  He paid attention to which projects had longevity and which were abandoned.

Then he looked more specifically at the businesses themselves, taking into account the following checklist (reprinted here in part):

  • Who is the target market for this project?
  • Who receives the profit for this project? (Is it just one person, a
    partnership, or a company?)
  • How does this project make money?
  • What is the estimated profit margin?
  • How many customers do the business owners’ have?
  • Overall, how much money are they making?
  • How would a newcomer enter this market?
  • Where do prospects come from?
  • What is the seller doing right?
  • How could the seller improve?

I really appreciated the checklist.  In my more typically right-brained approach, I’m apt to assume that a business is successful because its owner/founder is more talented than I am.   Of course, talent IS important, but it will only get you so far.   Knowing  who will be your target audience, how to get your product in front of them, how to structure your pricing so that you can build in room for growth while still earning a livable wage, and when to stick with your product (or when to scrap, or work to improve it) are just as important factors.

As I move forward, I’m reminded…

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.


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