When I was in college, my friend Neil and I used to run a painting company, And the way we got clients was… We created another company called Name Droppers and hired college girls to do surveys in the neighborhood. They’d go out in the evenings and on weekends with clipboards and survey forms. They’d knock on doors, and ask questions like, “Are you planning to do any home improvement projects over the summer?”

We were looking for painting jobs specifically, but we’d survey for any projects. Roofing, siding, landscaping, getting windows, driveways, pools, fences, decks… all the things one could do home improvement-wise. Then, we’d take all the painting jobs for ourselves and, with the rest of the list, we’d set up a referral service for other companies.

It was a great system. We were generating leads for our own painting service and, at the same time, we’d refer people who needed fencing to a fencing company. Or we’d refer people who were getting a roof to a roofing company. And so on. We’d refer all those people to all those other businesses at a profit. Clever, huh? Even before I knew what that meant, we turned our advertising and marketing, our Before Unit, into a profit center.

And when I look back at it now…

I see exactly why what we were doing was such a success: We were collecting market data that was hard to get. We were putting together information that every business owner wants to have at their fingertips, but there’s no easy way to get it. And because it’s a hard thing to do, nobody wants to be the one who does it.

But here’s the thing:

Any time you step up and assemble market data that’s very interesting and helpful for people, you get to appoint yourself to a position of a market leader. No matter the industry. And the great thing about becoming the market leader and raising yourself one layer above is… the competition becomes scarce.

As someone once said,

“It’s not very crowded at the top.”

Which is a shame, really. Because the profits are way bigger 😉

Want to hear more about the business I created back in college? head over to the podcast for the full story.