Niches to Success

One of the first things I learned in my business classes is that there are basically two ways to be successful in business: Do something better than anyone else or do something cheaper. It’s not quite that simple (not that being better or cheaper is simple), but there’s a lot of truth to it.

At Morrison we’ve taken the “do it better” approach and look for needs for which we believe we can offer unique, quality services. I’ve often said “If you can find a dozen companies in the Yellow Pages doing it, we don’t want to” and we’ve stuck to it. Even our services like grant writing and recruitment, in which there are plenty of players overall, are focused on underserved niches.

I’ve seen many unique ideas over the years, both here at Morrison and in my prior work life. Part of my responsibilities as CFO for a large food company was risk management, including consumer complaints. As many of our products included fruit, the occasional pit would get through and we would get a claim for damaged teeth. We eventually found a group of dentists that specialized in reviewing dental claims for food companies; this was their only business and it saved us a lot of trouble. I particularly enjoyed sending them what I called “The Case of the Exploding Pit” in which a gentleman claimed he had broken 14 teeth (yes, fourteen) on one pit.

Jen Adams and Norissa Harman are longtime friends and sportswomen. Tired of women’s hunting and outdoor wear that was basically men’s clothing with a little pink, they founded Girls with Guns, a Morrison client. Nearly five years later, business is booming and they are travelling the world promoting their clothing line and shooting a pilot for an outdoors show.

Our client Top O’ The Morn Farms brought back a business model that is so old it’s new again. To fight the dual pressures of lower fluid milk process and higher feed, the almost 2,000 head dairy operation started processing their own milk and milk products and began delivering them to people’s doorsteps in 2012. Business has taken off and they’ve now expanded to retail markets.

Earlier this week, my partner Geoff Chinnock and I met with a fellow with a unique business model to sell something that’s been sold for millennia (read your Bible). Confidentiality prohibits sharing details, but the approach is so unique that it takes a while to get your head around. Once you do, it smells of promise.

This is often where we come in. The more original an idea is, the more investors, bankers, suppliers, potential customers, and others will want to see some “proof of concept.” For business models, this is often in the form of a feasibility study, business plan, or combination of the two (in essence a feasibility study addresses if something can be done successfully while a business plan shows how it will be done). We have done independent feasibility/planning studies for new businesses, new products, new processing operations, biomass and solar projects, and many others. They’ve been used to assure boards of directors and executive management, inform bankers and investors, explain benefits to customers, and for many other uses.

It’s been said that failure to plan is planning to fail, but for unique business ideas failure to plan is often failure to launch if key internal and external decision makers are not convinced. And in truth, sometimes the answer is “It’s not feasible,” though more commonly we can suggest alternative approaches to problem areas to make the greater concept work. For examples, see case studies at the bottom of our Planning & Feasibility page.

About the Author

+Brent Morrison is managing principal at Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim executive CFO services, recruitment, competitive grant writing and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Brent directly at bmorrison@morrisonco.net or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 202.

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