Start-Up Success Strategies For Boomer Entrepreneurs


Part III: LOOK! Flood Light? No! Laser Beam? Yes!


Dr. Marie Langworthy

Dr. Marie Langworthy

Focus, focus, focus. Use the funnel approach, from floodlight to laser beam.

Start small. As proof positive for the wisdom of this strategy, recall the history of your favorite current fast-food establishment.  Think back on how limited that initial menu was, offering only a few items at the start.  Fast-food gurus knew that one key to success is to realize that because a few things can be done well does not mean that everything can be done well. Now fast forward to today’s drive-up diners and compare their current offerings with their start-up menus.  In fact, a recent news article featured the story that, because of their extensive, ever expanding menus, fast food venues were grappling with the problem of slow customer service because patrons were taking too much time to digest all the menu items before ordering.

Lesson learned — Think small, smaller, smallest.  You can always expand your product line or service offerings as you experience success, but for now, less is more.

There’s another reason for initially limiting one’s service or product as a recipe for start-up success.  What other factors have contributed to the success of fast-food franchises? From the beginning, their limited offerings enabled them to monitor and to offer consistency.  We are all creatures of habit.  Furthermore, we know what we like, and we like what we like.  We don’t want to be surprised or disappointed when we order that giant, jumbo, triple burger with ‘the works’.  We want it to be and to taste exactly as we remembered our last burger. We demand product consistency and reliability.  Whether we’re in Hong Kong or Winnemucca, Nevada, we have come to expect our french fries to taste the same and to be served in the same way.

It is this product or service reliability and consistency that builds loyal customer base that contributes to the long line at your local fast food franchise.  By focusing in laser beam fashion on a limited concept, you allow yourself to concentrate on long-term value, rather than short term profit.  You create an environment of better before cheaper.  Human nature favors the known over the unknown, structure more than surprise.

So now we come to your identifying your small unique market niche.  What will you offer that no one else supplies? How will you differentiate yourself from the masses? Will it be in the uniqueness of your product or service? It’s accessibility?  It’s intrinsic value or its added value feature?

Melanie always had a hunch that she could successfully operate her own breakfast/lunch café in her small, secluded New England hamlet off the coast of Maine, where mostly local fishermen and their families reside. But how would her restaurant differ from the one other lack luster establishment close by?  Having lived in the South for several years, she remembered and missed some of those delicious southern breakfasts. Nowhere within a hundred mile radius could she find such delicacies as homemade biscuits and gravy, liver-mush, and grits laden with butter and sugar.  She would offer these items the centerpiece of her menu, featuring them as sides to traditional New England breakfast fare.  As a further draw, to connect with her regular patrons, she provided personalized coffee mugs, and a weekly drawing for breakfast for two. It became a prestige symbol of acceptance to be awarded with your very own personalized mug – a sign that you were now a member of Melanie’s ‘breakfast club.’ Her breakfast treats became so popular, she eventually abandoned her idea for developing luncheon items and expanded her breakfast menu with cross-over items such as homemade soups within a bread bowl and a whole host of gourmet grinders. It wasn’t long before Melanie found herself building on a waiting-room foyer to accommodate the weekend and holiday crowd of waiting customers.

Walter, a veteran, upon returning from active military duty, found it increasingly difficult to find gainful employment.  His entire community was in a state of emergency.  A series of violent storms had wreaked havoc throughout the state, creating frequent chronic power outages.  Entire towns as well as individual families were desperate to remove trees that had already fallen as well as rotting trees that threatened to come crashing down in the next storm. 

As a young man, Walter had worked in his uncle’s tree farm, planting new trees and identifying and removing old, diseased trees.   He was aware of the dangers, the hazards, and the techniques for safe tree removal. He immediately saw a self-employment opportunity. But Walter also realized that the current environmental crisis that his state was experiencing was temporary. How could he differentiate himself and his business so that he could establish a long-term reputation?  What added value could he offer potential clients?  His idea — included in his fee, he chops the wood from the fallen trees, and stacks it, suitable for fireplace use.

Melanie and Walter’s businesses are thriving because they identified a specific need, zeroed in on how they could differentiate their product and service from that of their competitors, and started small.  Over time, they have achieved business success doing what they know and love, and loving what they do. You, too, can apply that model of success to your own entrepreneurial plan. #

In Part IV: “Do A Selfie. Do you have the right stuff?” we’ll explore the importance of ‘knowing thyself’ before you write any checks!


Dr. Marie Langworthy is a retired educator and current author/editor. Through her online business, Super Writing Services , she specializes in “writing it right”–the way you, the client, want to say it. Her recently co-authored and published book, SHIFTING GEARS to Your Life and Work After Retirement, is available on Amazon and on the Shifting Gears website  Marie is a contributor to Boomer-related publications, web sites, and blogs, and is available for interviews on the timely and broad range of Boomer retirement issues.



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