The Power of Perception

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds” ― Albert Einstein

There are a million stories about why the Internet has been a gift to small businesses. Most of them use the following line or something close to it, “the Internet has leveled the playing field so that the little guy can compete with giant corporations.”

In reality it is not entirely true. It doesn’t take into account the vast differences that exist in access to resources. Our old friends from Field of Dreams can say “If you Build It They Will Come” a million times but that only works in the movies.

The fact is that building a website is not a guarantee that millions of visitors will walk through your virtual store where they will pick your virtual shelves clean and make you rich.  What if it did happen? What would the small business do then?

Would their servers be able to handle the traffic? Would they have enough inventory? What about fulfillment? Who would ship all the orders out? What about returns? Who would deal with that?

The so called giants have teams of people that handle these issues. If the site goes down there is always a group of IT professionals to deal with it.  They have enough working capital to purchase larger amounts of inventory and sell it at a better price point than the smaller business.

But this isn’t about the nuts and bolts of why it is not really accurate to say the playing field has been leveled.  You can blame it all on one thing:

The Power of Perception

The power of perception is what drives this belief.  When it comes to the web that quote from our friend Mr. Einstein is quite accurate.

There is an exceptionally low barrier to entry into the online world. For a minimal investment you can set up a beautiful looking website that makes you look like you are running a multimillion dollar business.

No one knows whether you are running your site from the penthouse on Fifth Avenue, the beach or from a dingy motel room.

You Are Contradicting Yourself

I know.  A moment ago I was splashing cold water on the faces of those who believe that the Internet has leveled the playing field and now I am saying that it sort of has. Where am I going and what is the point.

The point is that while the field might not be level it doesn’t have to be for you to be successful doing business online. What you have access to now are tools that you can use to leverage the power of perception so that you can do more with those fewer resources.

And maybe, just maybe you can leverage those fewer resources into something that grows into the next Google or Facebook.  That is a separate topic entirely that we might cover in a future post.

For now let’s end with one of my favorite quotes:

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.“- Mark Twain


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  1. Pingback: Twenty-Three Posts- Not Quite a Milestone - Joshua Wilner

  2. Bill Dorman July 29, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Whoa, even have your mug on your Avatar too; cool beans…….:).

    At the end of the day, some will still perceive it as a way to make an ‘easier’ buck than a real or meaningless job will allow. At least if you are a solopreneur you have more control, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

    I have certainly contemplated what I want my presence in here to be like. The reality is, if I put the same time and effort into my day job I will be rewarded quite well. As you know, I have been doing my day job for quite some time so I looked at social as something to re-energize me and provide some excitement. It has to a certain degree, I just haven’t used it for my business.

    I don’t know if I told you, but my youngest son will be interviewing with Lanier next week. If it works out and we hire him, I see my role as a mentor and continuing a legacy. I believe enough in our corp that I would bring my son in. I think that will get me excited…….

    I like the look and look forward to stopping by more often, Joshua; can I still call you Jack?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Josh July 30, 2012 at 12:59 am

      Hi Bill,

      That sounds like a great opportunity for your son. I don’t know if my father and I could have managed that, at least not when I was first starting out.

      The “old man” who recently started reading this blog would have gone out of his way to prove he wasn’t playing favorites by riding me and I would have flipped out.

      Now that I have had a little seasoning I could see doing it.

      Anyway, it sounds like it could be a great opportunity for you and him. I think you are probably right about energizing you. After 30 years I imagine you don’t have to think about the little details any more. It might give you reason to take a look at your approach and evaluate it.

      I am not saying that you are doing anything wrong, just thinking out loud.

  3. Kaarina Dillabough July 28, 2012 at 5:40 am

    I just spent a day at an event where we discussed the whole “online world”, what it can do for business, and how the tools are just that…tools. I was delighted when someone finally said, it’s just another marketing tool. I don’t know why so many people see “the internet” as some creature that will transform customers into something other than people…regular folk…and people do business with people. Forget B2B and B2C…people do business with people, and the tools that are used should be the ones that get your message most effectively and efficiently to those people. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Josh July 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm

      Not to toot my own horn but I wrote an article about the challenges of the Internet Goldrush way back in 2000.

      It wasn’t because I was prescient or smarter than everyone else, but because it was obvious that it was a tool that we could use to do more than we had before. Much of utility of a tool comes from the skill of the owner.

      We all want the magic solution to our problems, a pill that makes weight drop off of us or our hair grow back so it makes sense to me that some people would try to do the same with the net.

      But it doesn’t work that way and as you said people like to work with people.

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