#1 Best Thing You Could Do to Build Your Business?

What if you had the opportunity to shadow the heads of the very best, most profitable, most admirable businesses in your industry for a few weeks … and were able to see everything they did, ask anything you want, and take detailed notes?

How valuable would that experience be for you?  How much would you pay to do it?

How Sam Walton Built the Biggest Company Ever with a Yellow Notepad

Sam Walton’s first retail store was lousy.  He made every rookie mistake you can think of.  He sold the wrong merchandise at the wrong prices in a bad location with a horrible lease.

What made Sam special, though, was that within a few years that store was killing it, and he was on his way to creating the largest business the world has ever known.

How did he do it?   With a yellow notepad.   That’s it.  For real.

Sam would hop on a bus and travel (literally) all around the country, visiting every five-and-dime retailer he could find.  He would walk into a store with his yellow pad in hand and simply explore … he’d look and observe … he’d ask questions of the employees … and he would write down the best ideas.  He would then go back to his store and implement those ideas and track the results.

That process turned a failing store into a thriving one.

In fact, Mr. Walton never stopped taking these learning trips.  Once he had grown his business into multiple stores, he ran never-ending contests for the best ideas from his employees.  He craved to learn from others and test those ideas.  He would then keep the good and throw out the bad.  He never got to the point where he made so much money that he thought he knew it all.

His business was like the “Borg” on Star Trek, assimilating the best of his industry and employees and making it his own.

Where Should You Take YOUR Yellow Notepad?

Sam Walton discovered that there was an absolute treasure trove of great business ideas directly applicable to his business out there for the discovering.  Nowadays, no matter what your business is, there is an even bigger and more easily accessible treasure trove of ideas out there for your business.

You won’t be able to shadow the owners of the best business in your industry, but you can do the next best thing by bringing YOUR yellow notepad to these places:


It’s astonishing the treasures you can find on the websites of businesses in your industry.  If you try various searches for competitors on various search platforms, you will find a long list of competitive companies.  I like to begin first by analyzing businesses within my target geography and then expand.  After you have analyzed 10+ companies, you’ll begin to see patterns and opportunities.

What to Look for

First of all, the whole point of the review is to see what you like – and might like to incorporate into your business – and what you don’t like – and want to avoid in or remove from your business.  In addition, I’m getting a feel for where my business and I fit within the industry and where the opportunities are.

  • People: What are the strengths and weaknesses career and educational background of the owner and any team?
  • Target Market: From what you see on the website, who is that business’s target market? How well does it seem they speak to that market?
  • Positioning: From the company’s visual identity, pricing, and other indicators, how are they positioned in the market? Expensive or low cost?  Expert or one of the people?
  • Visual Identity: What do you think of their logo, colors, font, downloadable brochures, videos, etc.? How are the people dressed in their pictures?
  • Offerings: How clear is it what you are buying? What all is included?  What incentives do they offer to upgrade to the next level?  Is there anything there you’d like to include in YOUR products and services?
  • Pricing: How much do they charge for their products or services? How does that compare with what you had in mind for your products and services?
  • Lead Gen / Sales Process: Who do they entice you to contact them? Is there an initial consultation?  Do they give anything away for free?


Another WONDERFUL source for information is an online forum made up of people who run businesses just like yours.

When I started my window and gutter cleaning business, these online forums were indispensable for me to discover: the best equipment and chemicals, how to price, the most efficient way to squeegee a window, etc.  I could ask ANY question to the group, and 10+ business owners would give me their best wisdom.  Amazing.

Here is a screenshot of the topics today on my favorite window cleaning business forum.  Notice the number of participants and answers to questions!

Window Cleaning Resource - 1

You can find forums for YOUR business by searching in a search engine, looking on specialized trade association websites and looking for Facebook forums.


Other great resources for wisdom in your field are:

  • Mentors: Find someone who has succeeded wildly in your industry and reach out to them. You’d be surprised at how much they might be willing to share over lunch or on a Skype call.  They may even be willing to take you under their wing permanently.  Believe this: Every great man or woman wants an apprentice …
  • Masterminds: Find a group of ambitious peers either locally or somewhere else in the world and start a Mastermind Group. A Mastermind Group can happen in-person or using Skype.
  • Books, Podcasts & Video: Search online to see if any experts in your field have created books, video or provide a consistent podcast.

How I Record What I Find


I like to use a spreadsheet (I prefer MS Excel) to record what I find from my online searches.  This is good for notes about lots of specific businesses in my industry so I can see the “big picture.”

Here is a screenshot of the simple way I set up my spreadsheet for tracking what I find:

Competitor Tracker - 1

Word Processor

I like to create different Word documents in which I track the best ideas I find for each part of my business.  Each one of these documents is never-ending … meaning that I’m adding to them all the time.

For example, I have docs for Lead Generation, Sales, each one of our Member Benefits, Tech, etc.

My very best ideas in one doc per part of my business.


With some effort and very little money, you can find just about the very best wisdom available for running your type of business.  If you take the time to organize your thoughts carefully, you can do for your business what Sam Walton did for his.


So, how do YOU find the best ideas for YOUR business??

  1. Thank you for sharing your simple recipe and powerful insights regarding how to market, to compete and to increase sales.

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