Lessons In Bootstrapping Learned At Ikea

Our last house was cavernous.  It had big rooms and high ceilings.  Our main living room area was massive and had an entire open mezzanine level where our home office and man cave existed.  The mezzanine had two large desks plus a sofa, a 42″ LCD for playing Xbox and a big outside deck area.

As a result of having so much space, we bought big, oversized furniture and truthfully we didn’t come close to filling it up.

When we moved into our new place last week, this posed a substantial problem for us because the new place was a bit smaller.

The one problem that we failed to come up with a MacGyver solution for was our coffee table in the living room.  The previous coffee table was made from a significant piece of Tasmanian Oak – it was wide, heavy and very sturdy.  It was also too big for our new living room which was a problem.

We looked around at a few furniture places to see if we could find something before we just settled on the idea of making a run to Ikea and figuring something out.

On the way, my wife searched Ikea’s online catalogue to get a sense of what we could look for when we got there and came across the “Hol” coffee table for a shade under two hundred bucks.  This was going to be a “go to” option, but we agreed to look around when we got there.

When we arrived in the coffee table section, I saw this nice little coffee table that would work perfectly in our space.  Upon closer inspection, it was not actually a coffee table at all, but two side tables pushed next to each other.

It was perfect!  We could push them together and make a nice little coffee table when we needed them, but when we maybe wanted to each have our own while we were watching TV we could slide them apart.  I was excited and showed my wife before I even noticed the price tag.  She came over and totally agreed this was a great solution, so we went hunting for the tag – they’re the “Luck” side table and they cost a whopping eight bucks each.

Literally, our new coffee table, brand new cost sixteen dollars.  I couldn’t believe it.

It got me to thinking about how perfect the way Ikea works as a metaphor for a bootstrapped entrepreneur.

First of all, just about everything you buy, you have to go pick it off the shelf and assemble it yourself.  This is exactly how it is when you’re building your own business from scratch and just starting out.  On a fairly regular basis, you have to knuckle down and just put everything together on your own.  And just like Ikea furniture, sometimes the furniture is hard to assemble and isn’t perfect, but it almost always if good enough to get you by.

Then I started thinking about how the way Ikea walks you through their store.  The whole layout is planned to take you through their perfect little sales funnel that they test and tweak to get perfectly.  Tablecloths before Dinnerware but both after Dinner Tables.  Your whole journey through the store is methodical and well thought out.  Everyone building their own business should go to their local Ikea and walk through the place, see how the customer is taken on a journey – that’s what you need to do in your business, especially online!

The last little tidbit is the best bit and one of the best lessons you as an entrepreneur can hopefully take away from Ikea.  The store we were in was split over two levels, at the end of the top floor was the canteen and after the checkouts on the bottom floor was the place where they sell drinks and hot dogs.  The highest percentage margin on any item in an Ikea is… You guessed, it the food!  They make the best margin selling meatballs and hot dogs, so they always put them at the end of your trip or at a natural breakpoint like when you are at the end of a floor.

You should do the same thing if you can.  After someone checks out, make them an offer to buy something else that’s really high margin for you.  Or after you collect an optin, take them to a special offer to buy a small, high-margin product from you.  It’s just a natural place to make an offer.

I could probably go on and on about the brilliance of how Ikea run their business, but you get the drift.  These big successful companies who are very process driven didn’t get to be successful by mistake.  We all don’t just go there and empty our wallets to buy furniture we end up assembling ourselves because it has funny, foreign-sounding names.  Ikea has worked out how to get us to maximise our spend and have a reasonably pleasurable time doing it.

Where does your business stack up?  What tips can you pull out of Ikea to help grow your business faster and more efficiently?

Spend some time thinking about experiences you’ve had and how you can maybe take things away from those and incorporate them into what you’re doing.

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