Good Business Habits in an Unlikely “Business”

Posted on Jul 17, 11 in Blog

It’s a holiday and I’m pulling up for gas at the local filling station. I spot a gentleman pulling soda cans out of the trashcan in the middle of the island. This is hardly something that would be considered out of the ordinary, and most people wouldn’t give this a second look. But it got me thinking.

As I watched him, I noticed several unique features about his “work” worth sharing.

  • He was clean and nicely dressed. He took pride in himself all the while he was collecting items from the garbage can. He knows that first impressions are important. Regardless of what you are doing, people judge you by how you look. How he looks determines how we judge him and how we evaluate the importance/relevance of the activity in which he is engaged.
  • He greeted me and engaged in a friendly dialogue. He asked me how my day was going. He believed that since I was in his “personal space” he should interact with me. That came as a positive surprise. He didn’t ask me for money, or anything for that matter. He merely commented that he was working today. How often can we surprise people by offering a friendly voice when they least expect it? My perception of him changed immediately.
  • He treated his work as a business. He had created this contraption to help him outperform other “can hunters.”  It was a simple, but clever tool… envision a skateboard with a trashcan mounted on it. He also had a second skateboard that he could ride. This second skateboard was hooked on the trashcan edge. I could see him riding the one skateboard while pushing the other in front of him. If you make an investment in capital does it mean you have a business? (On that note, I wonder if he depreciates the skateboard on his taxes? Or, if he even files taxes? Little wonder about that!)
  • He’s fulfilling an unmet need. Jobs and industries develop in response to unmet market needs. Many people don’t take the time to separate their cans from their other trash, especially when they are traveling away from home. From that standpoint, he is adding value to the economic system by pulling out and separating resources that others don’t want.

Funny how the free market works, some things are true regardless of scale.

(For sake of this example, let’s not even take up the argument that he shouldn’t be in somebody else’s trashcan in the first place!)

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