13 October 2010

The Four Opportunities Choice

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Times are tough. People all around Me say things like "The economy is brutal" and "Things are getting worse." They have a point. But they miss the point, too: within every crisis, there is opportunity. No, I'm not talking about that urban myth about the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" being the combination of two others ("problem" and "opportunity"), I'm talking about reality. It's simple: if times are tough, and they are, and they are tough for a lot of people, and they are, then solving a problem within the crisis leads to benefits for lots of people. And people pay for benefits. (Let's ignore welfare for a moment here in pursuit of the larger picture, okay?)

So where are the opportunities in this time of crisis? Glad you asked. Here's four I came up with over a cup of overly-sweet coffee: Help people 1) Save time. 2) Save money. 3) Gain health. 4) Gain knowledge.

Simple, right? Pretty damn obvious if you ask Me and I'm glad you did. But I'm pretty sure you're scratching your head wondering how to get it done, how to make these "opportunities" appear out of thin air. Well, all you need to do is A) Keep your eyes and mind open and B) Want to come up with ideas.

Most people have trouble doing (A) (too much work) and (B) (ditto), but no one ever said that Life was either fair or easy. But take that reality and understand that most people are just slogging through Life on auto-no-pilot, drones programmed by media and society, secure in their illusion that the world is unchangeable because they can't be bothered to think about it.

But an example makes this easier to understand. For the past few weeks, I've been using a bakery near My house as an external office, to help break routine and stay productive. The place serves meals to walk-in customers, take-out and has delivery to neighboring offices and homes (within walking distance.) They also serve food to the video game players that populate the literal back room from opening at 6 a.m. to closing at 11 p.m.

The bakery throws away a lot of food every day. A lot. I asked an employee how much on average and she estimated they dumped enough food every day to heartily feed 40-50 people, abut $100-$200 worth of food a day. Now apply the 4 "Help People" provisos listed above and what do you come up with? (Remember, you want the bakery to make money, as if you were the owner.)

Here's what I came up with: Offer weekly meal plans for 85% of a 5-day lunch purchase and a healthier meal plan (listed as such) for 75% of the 5-day average cost. Lunch sells for about $5, so 85% of $25 is roughly $21.00. But the healthier option comes out to about $19...and costs less to prepare, as it avoids higher-priced fare such as pork and beef in favor of chicken and fresh vegetables (the local Plaza de Mercado is just across the street.) The end results? A reduction in the amount of food prepared, a way to provide better service (deliveries can be regularly scheduled instead of "when called") and increased profits based on steadier (predictable) revenue.

Yes, the excess food can also be given to a food bank, but there is none in My town. Maybe it could be donated to some worthy group, but the problem the bakery needs to solve is not hunger, it's operational profit. The bakery employs some 26 people who are better off if the business thrives than if it gives away food. The idea for the hungry is to create a food bank that properly collects excess food from local restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias and such and systematically tracks its delivery to the needy while registering the donation for proper tax deduction.
When times are tough, the tendency is to either throw one's hands up in despair or to run around trying to solve everything and in effect, solving nothing. At the personal level, all you, I and anyone else can do is improve our own lot by helping others improve theirs. In that way, We all thrive and create a stronger engine of progress. But too many of Us bail out and many others opt for "screw you" tactics that create greater fragmentation. No, I am not advocating socialism: I am advocating the creation of value, which is the only true coin an economy can have. Create enough value--not on paper, but in concrete results--and you have augmented an economy, whether its your own or your nation's.

But you have to want to do it. You have to choose to do it. And then you have to do it.

Like that's any different from the rest of Life...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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