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Business Project Filter — What Would Frank Do?

Rule #1: The deal is the deal.
Rule #2. No names.
Rule #3. Never open the package.

— Frank Martin

Inspired by Jason Statham’s character in Transporter, I imagined how Frank Martin might filter potential money-making projects. What rules would Frank apply to avoid entrapment, live large, and minimize downside risk?

1. Customization

As projects move from generic/repetitive to unique/singular, they transform. Meeting individual whims and desires increases the likelihood the project will turn into an enormous time sink or drive you crazy.

Custom work involves too many unknowns and individual modifications that are inherently unscalable. Expect layers of additional work, disheartening differences in customer knowledge, and untold surprise developments.

Ideal projects are well-defined and lend themselves to repetition and refinement.

Skip custom work. — Frank


2. Products

Services often involve too many variables and options.

The solution is to package and sell your service as a standardized product.

Productized services (or pure products) lend themselves to confident repetition.

They also lend themselves to refunds — the painless, convenient remedy for customers that are unhappy or don’t fit.

Can you bill for your productized service on a recurring basis? Even better!

For individuals and micro-teams, the only sustainable “product” may be niche knowledge: consulting, training, coaching, speaking, writing, and information products.

Sell your service as a product. — Frank


3. Expertise

It’s so tempting to get involved with projects that are beyond your experience and skill set.

It’s a growth opportunity!

But no matter how straightforward something *should* be, it often turns out to be much more difficult or time-consuming.

There’s a real risk of a bad outcome, with all the downstream reputation damage and opportunity costs that entails. Technology in particular is a notorious graveyard for the well-intentioned. 

Natural-fit projects often evolve out of previous experience.

Develop expertise, then market it. — Frank


4. Bottomless Pit

When is a project involving art, design, writing, composition, coding, or optimizing truly finished? It’s largely a matter of opinion. Your customer’s opinion may be different than yours.

The best projects are discrete; they have a beginning and an end, with known compensation.

Just say no to open-ended projects that can be endlessly polished and tweaked.

This is not a hobby. — Frank


5. Story

Your project must be explainable in a simple way.

Buyers want a straightforward, clear explanation of benefits. Boil the project down to its essence, without industry jargon.

My vote for best explanation goes to Apple’s original iPod:  “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

If you can’t explain your project in a simple, compelling way, there’s probably something wrong. You’ll fight it forever.

Keep the story short. — Frank


6. Automation

Automate your marketing to pre-sell your product, then as required, enter the picture when the lead is ready to take action.

That’s the best way to extend reach and connect with ideal customers at scale.

Technology is ubiquitous and cheap. Perhaps it can take on a bigger role beyond marketing. Is there a way automate production and delivery? Take advantage of it.

Bring in the robots. — Frank


7. Speed

Low-risk, sustainable projects benefit from short delivery times. Ideally, the work is done within one day.

That might be mean actually performing the service, shipping the product, or providing customers with the resources to do the work themselves.

Fast delivery opens many opportunities to earn money during the year, and if necessary, recover from mistakes.

High-risk projects require long slogs to reach delivery. Those long commitments will lead to huge opportunity costs if anything goes sideways.

Deliver fast. — Frank


8. Cash

By selling a product that’s paid in advance or on-delivery, cash flow problems are minimized.

The worst high-risk scenario is to invoice a few customers (or only one!) for larger amounts. Invoicing turns control of your life-giving cash flow over to someone else. If a major customer can’t or won’t pay, you’re done.

The ideal low-risk scenario is to have many customers paying smaller amounts on a recurring basis, in advance.

Collect up front. — Frank


9. Position

Market position is how customers perceive your brand versus competitors.

You must define it. Control what differentiates your project from others. If you don’t, others will.

Work out your market position: low-price vs. high-price; premium vs. value; niche vs. commodity; quirky vs. mundane; adventurous vs. staid; global vs. local.

For example, you might position your project at a high price point, because you want fewer, but more discerning customers, with more profit potential.

Can you sufficiently differentiate your project in the market?

Differentiate or die. — Frank


10. Design

All of this gets down to a core principal: you must design your project to match your nature and aspirations.

That’s very different than stumbling across opportunities, getting lost in research, doing anything to pay the mortgage, or continuing to work in an industry just because you’ve been in it for ten years.

What project would dovetail with your native skills? What project would be both satisfying and meet your criteria?

Frank is an expert driver. He’s adept in the criminal world. He always finishes the job. That’s why he’s the best transporter. Highly-paid. Respected. Independent.

Distill the things you do best, then design a project around it. Filter out the rest.

Design your work. — Frank


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