Why operating in the niche might be flawed

The 2011 Sunday Times Rich List was published this weekend and unsurprisingly, the billionaires leading the pack, for the most part, hail from businesses that touch the lives of millions.

Most of us can only dream of creating this much wealth and it is hardly a great lesson in entrepreneurship when you consider the following:

1. Lakshmi Mittal, steel, worth £17,514m (down £4.936bn)

2. Alisher Usmanov, steel, £12,400m (up £7.7bn)

3. Roman Abramovich, oil and industry, £10,300m (up £2.9bn)

4. The Duke of Westminster, property, £7,000m (up £250m)

5. Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, pharmaceuticals, £6,870m (up £920m)

6. Leonard Blavatnik, industry, £6,237m (up £3.237bn)

7. John Fredriksen and family, shipping, £6,200m (up £3.45bn)

8. David and Simon Reuben, property and internet, £6,176m (up £644m)

9= Gopi and Sri Hinduja, industry and finance, £6,000m (new entry)

9= Galen and George Weston and family, retailing, £6,000m (up £1.5bn)

11. Charlene and Michael de Carvalho, inheritance, brewing and banking, £5,400m (up £1bn)

12. Ravi Ruia, energy, £4,900m (new entry)

13= Sir Philip and Lady Green, retailing, £4,200m (up £95m)

13= Hans Rausing and family, packaging, £4,200 (up £200m)

15. Joseph Lau, property, £3,937m (up £112m)

16. Kirsten and Jorn Rausing, inheritance and investment, £3,900m (up £400m)

17. Anil Agarwal, mining, £3,810m (down £290m)

18. Vladimir Kim, mining, £3,500m (up £340m)

19. Sir Richard Branson, transport, internet and mobile phones, £3,085m (up £485m)

20. Nicky Oppenheimer, diamonds and mining, £2,900m (up £1.4bn)

What can we learn from this?

1. Real financial success takes time. Businesses that last are scalable and durable. Richard Branson started in records in the 1970’s but it is now his Virgin Atlantic business that keeps the whole group ticking over.

2. Have a decent target market to go at. Finding a gap is one thing, but ultimately looking for a market in the gap is more important than looking for a gap in the market. The Hausing family is behind Tetrapak. Any liquid kept in your fridge over the last 10-15 years has been in one of their packs.

3. You need to go national, or better, international. Companies that, for example, benefitted from the UK public sector gravy train are now realising that they should have developed their business and reached further afield when they had the chance. The company owners that have been working internationally have been relatively unaffected over recent years.

4. You need resource. Scaling up costs… in terms of people, equipment, and technology.  But smart companies, like Mittal, plan capital expenditure over the long term, calculating future demand and spreading the investment.

Are you operating in a niche and running out of customers? You may need to broaden your horizons or re-evaluate what you offer and who you offer it to.


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