When Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in the Manila I was only nine years old. Even though we were in the Philippines at the time we couldn’t afford to make the trip to go see the fight, but my father took me to the base rec center and we watched it, seated next to each other in a large cafeteria-style room with a lot of small televisions and one projector against the big wall.
My dad and I often watched boxing matches together. He was a big fan and had done some fighting of his own in the military. He taught me how to throw a punch and more importantly, how to take one. Later, when I did some boxing of my own and took some martial arts, those skills came in handy.
Dad didn’t like Ali. He was a draft dodger and anti-American and the room full of vietnam-era servicemen rooted strongly for Joe Frazier to win. “He’s scared to take a punch.” Dad would say. “He dances around. Joe will clock him with one good punch and it’ll be over.”
That day Ali taught us all a lesson about himself, about boxing, and about life. He stood toe to toe with Joe Frazier and took a beating that would have killed almost every other human on the planet for eight rounds. Ali showed us all that it wasn’t that he couldn’t take a punch, it was that normally he didn’t have to. He emerged in the later rounds with the stamina and strength to box Joe Frazier into a crushing defeat. Dazed, confused, and nearly blinded, Frazier’s trainer threw in the towel before the final round.
I have thought about that fight many times over the years. I’ve rewatched it over a hundred times. It is, in its audacity, a work of art done in the medium of violence. Ali did the unexpected and early on Frazier thought it was a gift. It turned out to be his worst defeat.
But Ali only did it once.
We don’t have to go head to head with our opponents all the time. Most of the time it’s just not smart. It’s good enough to know we can if necessary.
I spent my career dancing through conflict and shifting around bigger and stronger competitors.You can too.
There are probably a couple million engineers in the country, but I never had to compete for a job because I decided to specialize in a type of programming that others hate to do - machine languages for factory assembly line equipment. I got really good at it and never worried about what anyone else was doing.
When I started my window cleaning business there was no shortage out there. So I didn’t duplicate everyone else. I didn’t copy flyers, mailers, and advertised specials. I figured there was room for me to thrive where others are weak. So I intentionally picked the most difficult windows to do and I figured them out - how they’re made, how they operate, how to fix them, and how to clean them systematically in order to create a place for me where few others would tread.You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?I learned everything I could about Storm Windows and Storm Window sets. A lot of times I would be recommended to homes where other window cleaners had refused to even give a bid. Sometimes I’d chat with owners of much bigger companies and they’d tell me that when they came across a really tough job that wasn’t worth their time they’d give my name out. I made sure that it was worth my time.
This is what I mean by scarcity (remember the title?), pick things to do that aren’t exactly like everyone else. Find a place in the market and get so good that others just pass that work up. When you’re there, you get to decide your own prices and your own schedule.
Since we got so good at the hardest jobs, we naturally moved into easier ones with a solid-built reputation. I’ve worked twice as hard getting good at the work as anyone else in my market and half as much on marketing or sales.
Where is the scarcity in the market?
It’s at the work level.
The scarcity isn’t in the marketing programs.
The scarcity isn’t in the fancy equipment.
There is no scarcity in people talking about the industry on tik-tok and YouTube and Facebook.
There is no scarcity of gurus in our industry.
The scarcity is in people who get up everyday and do the work instead of talking about doing the work.
You know where else there is scarcity? Trades. We used to have shop class in school. Kids used to learn how to build things and fix things and some of them loved it so much that they made it their life work. Carpenters, welders, plumbers, sheet metal workers and I could go on and on and on. Also - window cleaners.
We’re at a place where soon there will be a shortage of people who can build and repair homes and buildings. Those skills will be hard to come by. The most experienced are retiring and younger people aren’t entering the fields.
Do you want to become so busy and valuable to clients that you don’t have time to advertise?Learn how to fix the windows you’re cleaning. Learn how to glaze. Learn how to fix screens and blinds. Learn how to reseal leaking frames. Learn how to fix the old pulleys or the new spring cords. Learn how to put on tinting. You can offer those services at a substantial fee in addition to your window cleaning. The more you know and the better you do it, the more word of mouth you’ll get.
Scarcity.There is a scarcity of people who actually love this work and learn and improve everyday to get so good at it that it becomes an art.
I’m here if you have questions.
- Rick Wren