Every Business is a Machine

I hear a McDonald’s franchise costs over a million dollars to buy.

When you buy one, though, it basically starts to print money. They have the system down so well that you can plop a McDonald’s down anywhere and tell ahead of time how much money it will make. Likewise Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and all those places. A franchise is essentially a business in a box– a machine.

Other businesses, the unique ones, are machines too. As I sit here at my local coffee place by the canal, I realize suddenly that the gears beneath it are identical to the place I go to downtown. Different owners, different staff, different food– same business. It’s a formula, and that means that there’s a lot of it you can predict.

The only part you can’t predict is the human element. Can the staff upsell you their lattés, or make you show up more often? Once you’ve got it running, though, that too is mostly math. You know how much you make any day of the week under most circumstances.

If you’re a freelancer and you mostly work with clients, you may never understand this, because your business doesn’t work this way. You have low overhead because it’s basically you and your work, but it also can’t be automated. You can’t let your success work for you as much, unless you use existing infrastructure. (It’s why singers release perfumes.)

I bet if you run enough businesses, you start to see the machines inside every business. If you know real estate, you can walk into a building and see how everything is going to work 5 years from now, and tell the risk of the tenants from how they greet you.

By the way, we here online should be able to do the same thing with websites. Can you?






6 responses to “Every Business is a Machine”

  1. Helen Avatar

    Sounds like you recently read (or maybe should read?) this book: http://www.workthesystem.com/

    Similar thinking there.

  2. Jeremy Lee James Avatar

    You said: “By the way, we here online should be able to do the same thing with websites. Can you?”

    To which I answer: I certainly can. More importantly, I’m helping others (writers in particular) launch a website just like McDonald’s helps small business owners open an optimized fast food restaurant.

    Write Click Hosting: http://www.writeclickhosting.com

  3. Joe Sorge Avatar

    Now you’re really pitching to my wheel-house so to speak.

    Great way to describe the machine that can be any business. Funny thing is, once you get the machine and the “system” figured out, then you want it to grow (generally speaking). And here’s where the real challenge lies, the best way I can describe this challenge is in a question: “Can you systematize an experience”?

    Almost nowhere is it more obvious that it’s the HUMAN work that matters than when you try to take this step in business. Who knew that hiring was actually Marketing? Or that the customer service department should be running your Marketing department?

    Love this chain of thinking, and your post is quite timely, thanks as always.


  4. Julien Avatar

    Hey Joe, that’s really interesting. It gives me a lot to think about. 🙂

  5. Britta Trubridge Avatar

    I have yet to delve into a full and complete understanding of business, but understand the philosophy that you speak of in terms of psychology and yoga. Anytime you grasp a full understanding of the inner workings of anything you can apply it to just about everything. Imagine the sense that things would make if only we understood ultimate truth 🙂

  6. Joe Sorge Avatar

    Cannot wait to see what that thinking produces. thanks for the reply.

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