March 5, 2011 — A good friend passed along some business advice to me a few months ago. "Look for a line," he said. Basically, if you see a line out the door at McDonald's, start Burger King. Lines are everywhere and are dead giveaways for good business ideas and good businesses.
Let's use Groupon as a case study for the importance of lines. Groupon scoured Yelp for the best businesses in its cities--the businesses that had virtual lines of people writing positive reviews--and created huge lines for these businesses with their discounts. Other entrepreneurs saw the number of people lining up to purchase things from Groupon and created a huge line of clones. Investors saw other investors lining up to buy Groupon stock and hopped in line as well. Business is all about lines.
In every country we travel to I look around for lines. It's a dead giveaway for finding good places to eat, fun things to do, amazing sites to see. If you want to start a business, look for lines and either create a clone or create an innovation that can steal customers from that line. If you see tons of people lining up to take taxis, start a taxi company. Better yet, start a bus.
Succeeding in business is all about creating lines. Apple creates lines of reporters looking to write about their next big product. Customers line up outside their doors to buy their next big product. Investors line up to pump money into AAPL. Designers and engineers line up to work there.
If you are the CEO of a company, your job is simply to create lines. You want customers lining up for your product, investors lining up to invest, recruits lining up to apply for jobs. It's very easy to measure how you're doing. If you look around and don't see any lines, you gotta pick it up.