This afternoon I came across an interesting blog post, entitled “The Umbrella Man,” written by Chris Brogan. Chris shares the story of his experience watching a man strategically sell umbrellas to New York city (unprepared) pedestrians trying to navigate through a rainy Manhattan day.
Some of the pedestrians probably chuckle under their breath, dismissing this umbrella salesman as desperate. Or, they think sadly, to themselves, that this guy has no job, and no life, therefore he must turn to the streets to earn a living. They feel sorry for him. And… then they buy an umbrella from him, either out of pity, or because they’re tired of the rain. Who’s chuckling now?
As Mr. Brogan so artfully pointed out, in his blog, this experience is a great example of being entrepreneurial. You discover a need, you craft a strategy to fulfill that need, and bingo… You’re in business. You put cash in your pocket.
“That’s the basics of entrepreneurial thinking: find a gap, fill the gap, profit.” — Chris Brogan
It’s quite possible that our umbrella salesman is jobless, or even homeless. Does it really matter? The point is he chose to find a creative means to earn a living, instead of feeling sorry for himself. He found a way to solve his problem (cash flow) by helping other people solve theirs. (a solution to cope with rainy weather)
Sometimes, I think that we, as business people, tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Finding business opportunity is not rocket science. We just need to tune in to what’s going on around us. Connect the dots, so to speak. If we have our game on, and our wits about us, its amazing what we can discover.
The next time I am sitting at a stoplight, and a street vendor walks up to my car to sell me something, I’m pretty sure I will look at this interaction through a different lens than I have in the past. I may not buy anything from this Street entrepreneur, but I will definitely be comparing their sales pitch with that of the umbrella man.
Question: in your day-to-day interactions have you come across your version of an “umbrella Man”? What did you learn from the experience?