How to Start a Successful Business: Observe, Imitate, Modify

One smart KFC competitor
One smart KFC competitor
Have you ever experience this: A certain song stuck in your head, which your mind keep playing it over and over again whether you want it or not.

In every business idea pops in my head, these three words are like that song: Observe, imitate, modify.

Those three words are taught by a well-respected motivator in where I live, Tung Desem Waringin (the guy who threw tens of thousands of dollar – a large sum of money in where I live – out of an airplane.)

What is observe-imitate-modify mantra all about?

In essence, the observe-imitate-modify mantra is basically persuading entrepreneurs to ‘think inside the box’ – to stop thinking about creating ‘the next big thing’ and refine what’s already been done, instead.

The entrepreneurship ‘mantra’ is about being creative in a different way – Imitating something and trying to better it are, in my opinion, as difficult as inventing something entirely new. The good things about this is the better control of risks due to previously successful business from which the ‘imitation’ originates, thus improving the likelihood for the business startup to succeed.

An example to illustrate: Social media for business

So, let us take social media for business purposes, for example. Instead of creating a whole new social media that could be the next big thing – the next Facebook or Twitter – it’s better for you and I to observe what they do best, imitate them, and try to better their shortcomings.

Let us identify what Facebook missed – In my case, I spotted that Facebook is having a hard time allowing users to separate personal activities to the business ones – They allowed us to create business pages, but that would be enough to allow you to trash talk your pals while doing corporate talk with a corporate client – Mixing them up would damage your business credibility.

So, if you want to build a better Facebook (provided you have all the resources for the startups), you might want to find a way to allow users to live in two, separate worlds (of personal and business), while having a certain ‘melting pot’ to allow your personal and business network to mix.

As of Twitter, I spotted that it is drowned in Internet marketers’ tweets – Offers, affiliate links and sales pitches are flooding Twitter these days. How about building a Twitter-like microblogging site (again, provided you have all the required resources) that allow Twitter users to rate other users, identifying the users as, e.g. ‘Twitter marketer’, ‘Twitter spammer’, ‘Twitter fundamentalist”, etc. – The purpose is so we know who we follow, and to help us decide whether we should follow them or not.

Don’t be ashamed of being an imitator

Is it ethical to imitate businesses? Sure – If someone creates a spoon, it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own version of spoon, right?

For some people, imitating others is humiliating and shameful. Well, in that case, every business implementing the industry’s best practices would be humiliating and shameful, which is not.

Another example: China builds its economy by creating things cheaper at good quality. Regardless of some negative issues surrounding China-made products, we can never underestimate the ability of the Chinese people in manufacturing using the principle of observe-imitate-modify.

Any thought to share? If so, please share yours by commenting to this article.

Ivan Widjaya
Image by PinkMoose.