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The Transporter’s Rules for Filtering Business Opportunities

The Transporter’s Rules:

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

Inspired by Jason Statham’s character in The Transporter, I imagined how Frank Martin would filter potential money-making opportunities.

What rules would Frank apply to business projects to avoid entrapment, live large, and minimize downside risk?

1. Customization

Customization will drive you crazy. Even expending the energy to consider individual customer whims increases the likelihood the project will be far too time-consuming.

Custom work involves too many unknowns and unique modifications. It’s unscalable and disheartening. Save customization for your personal hobbies and acquisitions.

The antidote to customization is to select projects that are sharply defined and that lend themselves to repetition and continuous refinement — kaizen.

Repeat and refine.

— Frank


2. Products

Most services involve too many variables and options to support confident repetition. That breaks rule #1.

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

Is your product consumable in some context so you can bill on a recurring basis? Even better.

For individuals and micro-teams, the “product” is probably niche knowledge: consulting, training, coaching, speaking, writing, technical services, or information products. But it could be a physical product as well, as long as it’s not customized (rule #1).

Productize your service.

— 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 risk of a truly bad outcome, with all the downstream reputation damage and opportunity costs that entails. Technology is a notorious graveyard for the well-intentioned.

Choose natural-fit projects that evolve out of real experience.

Market what you know.

— 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.

Ideal projects are discrete; they have a beginning and an end, with a specific deliverable and known compensation.

Just say no to open-ended projects.

It’s not a hobby.

— Frank


5. Story

For marketing purposes, your project must be explainable in a simple way.

Buyers want a straightforward, clear explanation of how your product benefits them. 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.”

Explain your project in a concise, compelling way.

Keep it short.

— Frank


6. Speed

Low-risk, sustainable projects benefit from short delivery times. How short? Let’s say one day or less.

That might be mean actually performing the service, shipping the product, or providing customers with the resources to do the project themselves within that time frame.

Fast delivery opens myriad opportunities to earn money, and if necessary, recover from mistakes.

Slow delivery leads to slow innovation and huge opportunity costs if anything goes sideways.

Speed also drives sales. Can you provide a quote, pitch your product, sign a contract, or deliver faster than anyone else? A huge strategic advantage.

Deliver fast.

— Frank

7. Automation

Automate your marketing to qualify prospects and pre-sell your product. Enter the picture when the lead is ready to take action.  Automation supports speed (rule #6).

It’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 role beyond marketing. Is there a way automate production and delivery? Take advantage of it.

Release the robots!

— Frank


8. Money

Payment in advance or on-delivery minimizes cash flow problems.

The worst high-risk scenario is to invoice a few customers (or only one!) for large amounts. Invoicing relinquishes cash control to someone else. If a major customer can’t or won’t pay, it’s game over.

The ideal low-risk scenario is for many customers to pay a small amount for a standardized product (rule #2), 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 your position. Control what differentiates your project from others. If you don’t, others will, and it may not be favorable.

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.

You must differentiate. How will you do it?

Differentiate or die!

— Frank


10. Design

All of this gets down to a core rule: 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 dovetails with your native skills? What project would be both satisfying and pass your personal filters?

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 those skills and experience. Filter out the rest.

Design your project.

— Frank


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