A house built on nothing

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. He rang me up with some exciting news, “I’ve got some exciting news!”.

“Yes?” I said, thinking he’s done some brilliant deal with a major client, or someone wanted to invest or buy us out, or something.

“I’ve tracked down the owners of that domain name, and they are willing to sell it for around $150,000, but I reckon I can get them lower!”

My heart sank. This was the good news? Amazingly, he went off and bought the domain name, for something under this price (but not far under) from some real estate agents in Iowa (I kid you not) who must have thought their boat had come in.

I was reminded of this story when the Iowa caucus vote came in the other day; which is the official start of the ever running saga that is the US Presidential race. Iowa, the field of dreams, home of one of my favourite authors (Bill Bryson), place of Tornados, the world’s largest strawberry (I am not making this up) and birthplace of Herbert Hoover, John Wayne and Glenn Miller.

And one very lucky real estate husband and wife team. But not my erstwhile business associate, who went under within 12 months of the deal he struck with them.

A good domain name is useful, but surely Google, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and many others have proved that the domain name in itself does not a business make. Essentially, to have a successful business that lasts, you need to continually solve problems for customers such that they will pay you for doing so. If you can also wrap this all up with genuinely great customer service, and adjust your offering as their needs change, then you may be in business. Sounds easy, but it’s actually quite hard. Mainly because it involves selling (and listening, and thinking, and WORKING!). What my former associate forgot was that buying things is easy (anyone can go out and buy things), but selling… well that’s something else entirely.

Photo Credit: Active Rain

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