July 15, 2019
Warren PattersonI enjoy watching the changing world and the lessons I learn from the work of others. In the last month alone, I have observed three interesting businesses and learned something from each of them.

I have been following this 19 year-old kid build a business solely based off of Kijiji. It is remarkable that he is consistently and predictably building a business that I thought was only for selling used stuff. But it has become apparent that a large part of his success is based on the natural tendency of young people to communicate through text messages. I would be frustrated by having to constantly text to communicate, but for them, it is just the same as talking face-to-face. This fact turns out to be the teen’s competitive advantage — he has a growing customer base because more and more people are texters, not talkers.

He has also adopted Monday.com, a technology to manage and organize his work and work force that most others would not consider using. But what is really different is how he goes about this. He asks a pool of people when they want to work, then organizes the work around the people. It’s opposite to the standard approach. He has realized that people aren’t interested in working all the time. They would rather be paid well, but work less. So getting deliveries done relies on when his workforce is available to work. But he now has a big enough labour pool to ensure the work always gets done. Pure genius!

Recently, I was introduced to some home blogger entrepreneurs who have created a whole new distribution channel for products. These individuals connect to people in their community through Facebook Groups, local websites, etc., to create a following of like-minded consumers. Home bloggers offer product for sale, place committed orders with suppliers, then distribute the products locally. Some home bloggers are selling up to $600K per year. We are now competing against those who are more visible and have far less overhead than our traditional businesses. For them, it is not a business, but more of a lifestyle. On a whole, most individuals don’t have significant sales, but collectively they will turn into a big business. Once again, competition is different than what we are used to because of how technology connects us.

I’ve heard the argument that selling plants online is different and so it will never happen. Even if we did sell online, how would plants ever survive the delivery? Online plant sales are alive and gaining in popularity. Even more surprising are the prices that online plants are commanding. They are sold at nearly double that of the in-store price. How? It all goes back to the consumer who wants the convenience of shopping online, but doesn’t know the price of plants. We are about to go through a rapid transformation in this industry and we need to be prepared.

The world is changing exponentially — at a pace that I, and a lot of others, can not keep pace with. I am finding it is the youth who can help me to better understand what tomorrow will look like, rather than my own perspectives. Youth have no pre-conceived notions on how things work today. For this, they can teach us the lessons of tomorrow.
Warren Patterson
LO President