What Is Your “In”?
My middle school and high school era was an interesting time in music.
You had pop music shifting from alternative rock to very bubble gum stuff.
But you also had an upsurge in Rap Rock or nu Metal.
I never got into a lot of the rap rock stuff, but a lot of kids were really into it.
One of the artists that emerged as a leader in the rap rock genre was Kid Rock. And I’ve read interviews and listened to interviews that he has given over the years and he has an interesting take on that time.
He had been working on his music for about ten years. He had been kicking around the hip hop and rap scenes since the late 1980s. He even had a major record deal in the early ’90s.
Then around 1997 he was able to sign another deal. He figured it might be his last chance to really make it big. So he looked at what was emerging in the music industry and he saw the rap rock thing going on.
Well, he had been doing rap for a decade, but he also had an ace up his sleeve. He was well versed in the rock and country rock world’s of the ’70s and ’80s.
He found a way to use the trend of the time to find his “in” to the music business while also making sure that he could be a chameleon and change his style as the trends in pop music changed. He’s released more straight rock music, country music and all kinds of things over the years.
But he needed to find that “in” back in the late ’90s to even have a career.
The Netflix Example
My first experience with Netflix was sometime in the mid or late ’00s. Like a lot of people at the time, you would signup for Netflix and queue DVDs that you would want to watch. I can’t even remember the rules of how it all worked, but it was easy and made sense to a lot of consumers.
We know now, and it’s been written about a lot, that Netflix was kind of biding its time waiting to build its streaming service. That seems to have been the plan all along, but when they launched the infrastructure wasn’t there for people to stream. Internet connections weren’t fast enough. TVs weren’t “smart” yet.
But Netflix wanted to build brand recognition so they would have consumers on their side and also have bargaining power to buy content for their streaming service.
So their “in” was the DVD business.
The Amazon Example
Amazon is another one.
It’s weird to think about for those of us that are over 30, but kids today probably don’t even realize that Amazon started as an online book retailer. That was all they did.
Obviously they had bigger ambitions and have built a few different behemoths under their roof. But back in the ’90s they needed a way into the business world. At the time, dot coms were all the rage. Entrepreneurs were selling any product category they could from books to diapers to used stuff and more.
Not many are still around today, but Amazon used the trend to get in the business game and was able to adapt with the changing times.
The Gas Monkey Example
Richard Rawlings of Gas Monkey had an idea in the early 2000s. He wanted to build a lifestyle brand, but he needed a way to get into the game. So he launched a small custom auto shop or hot rod shop. He had watched his dad kind of mess around with cars. Richard had bought and sold cars. He wasn’t a mechanic or anything, but he saw that reality TV was popular and he figured that a show about hot rodding cars would have a big audience.
He actually worked for several years to get a TV station, eventually Discovery, to sign him to a deal, but it eventually did work.
But it wasn’t just about raising awareness for his hot rod shop. It was about getting exposure for the brand, which he has taken into multiple industries, some more successful than others. And he doesn’t seem to be stopping.
While other reality businesses have come and gone with the wave it seems like Richard and Gas Monkey could be there for the long-term even as trends change.
The Dodge Example
One more quick one that’s actually over 100 years old…
The Dodge brand is most famous for their cars and trucks. But that’s not how the business got its start. The Dodge Brothers were machinists. They worked on bicycles, then on car parts. Then they hooked up with Henry Ford and started making parts for his cars.
That relationship made the Dodge Brothers very wealthy and they knew that eventually they would have to venture out with their own car company because they knew Ford would eventually kick them to the curb.
But they used that relationship with Ford to get their “in” to the auto industry. They made millions. They learned the craft. Then they launched their own brand and it was successful right from the beginning.
There are a lot of ways to get into business. But there is often a compromise that needs to be made. It might not be possible to launch with your idea right away. You may need to do something a little outside of your idea to get into the game. But that’s okay. A lot of successful people took advantage of trends and of different situations to get in. Then they used the opportunity to build bigger and better things.
You can do it too. Just pay attention to the real opportunities and set your ego aside as you’re getting started.