While I have been wrong many, many times, I am going to limit this column to four: all innovations which I was convinced had no chance of success. Read on for my flawed logic and some lessons I have learned. Here we go:
1. Rent to own.
When I first heard of this idea, I thought, “Why would anyone pay rent for a TV (or stereo or washing machine) when they could simply save that rent payment for a few months and purchase it with cash?” Was I ever wrong! The rent to own businesses are exploding.
2. Storage units.
The first time I saw one of these storage units, besides thinking how ugly it was, I also thought, “There is no way this type of business can succeed. Why would anyone pay a monthly fee for the privilege of storing stuff they either don’t need or don’t have room for?” My logic was that if people have too much stuff, they would sell it or give it away before paying to store it. Wrong again! I realize that some people who have relocated will need to store some household belongings before buying another house, but my hunch is that many of these units are simply packed with “stuff”. I also have a hunch that many people pay this rent for months on end without ever formulating a plan to do something with their stuff. Of course I was wrong again about people paying for these storage units. They are everywhere.
3. Bottled water.
Of course, wrong again. “Why” I thought, “would anyone pay good money for bottle water that is free from your water spigot?” Even the name “Evian”, when spelled backward, reads “naïve”. Yet bottled water is here to stay. Do I ever buy it? Yes. For years, simply out of principle and hard headedness, I refused, but I confess that I have acquiesced for the sake of convenience.
4. Rap Music.
Don’t get me wrong here. I have no issue with anyone’s taste in music. I even confess that I enjoy some rap music. It is just that when I first heard it, I never thought it would catch on. To me, “rap music” was an oxymoron…it simply sounded more like poetry than music to me. But of course I was wrong once again. Rap music has flourished for decades.
Lessons I Have Learned
You probably noticed that I judged all of these businesses on the basis of whether I would buy it instead of considering what others would buy. By being wrong so many times, I hope to have learned to not judge the success of new businesses by my personal bias. Rather than immediately dismiss a product or service, I need to ask, “What needs will this new business meet? Who will use this product?” To do otherwise is to probably be wrong again. And doing so could cause me to miss out on an entrepreneurial opportunity or perhaps an investment opportunity.
How about you? What innovations have you been wrong about? Right about?