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Grow Flowers Where It Rains

January 17, 2014

I caught this over at the Reason Hit and Run Blog, and it’s a sign of the spirit of America, if you ask me.  Or as I call it, find business where others try to wreck it.

When Schuyler Taylor attended a gun buyback program in Seattle last year, he wasn’t hoping to turn in an unwanted firearm for a $50 gift card. He was looking to pay cold cash for a rare weapon.

Taylor, a 24-year-old gun enthusiast, is one of a growing number of collectors who has been showing up at the events, where towns, police departments, churches and nonprofits offer money or gift cards for old guns. The events have been held all over the country, credited by some for getting weapons off the streets and ridiculed by others for paying money for rusting junk. But collectors have taken notice that some of the guns, which are typically destroyed, are worth far more than they fetch at buyback events.

I’d note that a lot of these people are the same ones who are likely marking up prices at gun shows and over-charging for ammo during shortages.  I wouldn’t say that people looking for value in the trash heaps are the cream of society, but they do serve a pretty valuable service in recycling what matters while letting the rest go to drive general value up.

But the business strategy here is a very valid one.  Where there is low intelligence in the market, and where people can recognize the opportunity… that’s called profit.

The case above is a decent example.  Most of the people showing up to buybacks are not the most savvy about what they have.  Someone who got grandpa’s gun from mom, who’s never shot it, etc… they’re likely to just want to get rid of it before they get ensnared in some arcane law.  I’ve been in shops occasionally where someone brings in a gun to sell, and it’s easy to tell the people who just don’t know what they have (valuable or not, they just don’t know).  So someone who’s savvy can find value with a quick scan and turn a buck.

The key for most in business is finding those opportunities.  In the tech world, we push so hard to make devices more capable of doing new things in life, without ever really focusing on making them simpler to use.  People learn by routine, and use the tools that they can see, but don’t really ever dig into all the things a device can do.  There’s opportunity there, if someone can push through the crowds to find the gem before it goes to the dump.

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