Because this thought experiment will help you weed out the great ideas from the mediocre ones, it is critically important for you as a fledgling entrepreneur searching for your golden goose. Without it, you may waste years of your life chasing an idea that will never bear the best fruit.
The CENTS Framework is a fascinating idea I learned while reading the book, The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco. He is a multimillionaire entrepreneur who became financially free before 40 years old. CENTS is an acronym meant to help you quickly remember the considerations you need to make before committing to a new business venture.
How much control do you have over your money making machine? This is the first filter that can clear out thousands of false opportunities like multi-level marketing, or passive investing. You want to find a business idea where you can have complete control over every aspect of the business. It doesn’t mean your goal needs to be to become a micromanager, but it does mean you can’t expect to build a truly extraordinary business while delegating your responsibilities as an entrepreneur to other people.
If you choose a business model where you diminish control, you can fall victim to the whims and bad decisions of the business model creator. For example, Steak and Shake, at the time of this writing, is selling franchise locations for about $10,000 per store to what they call “Owner Operators”. However, the Steak and Shake Business model is, sadly, very deficient. This is why they are a floundering company today. Riding that wave is like riding straight to the bottom. Build your own wave, under your own control, and you can build it as large as your focused hard work allows.
How hard is it for others to enter that market as competitors? The harder it is for others to jump in and compete, the clearer the path to success will be for you. Easy entry businesses are quick to overcrowd. Have you ever been contacted by an odd person telling you they can make you thousands through cryptocurrency or stock investments?
PLEASE save yourself the headaches. These “opportunities” are just money and time drains. Examples of solid barriers to entry that can actually be opportunities for you to overcome are:
- Capital Barrier: This barrier is where the startup costs are very cash heavy. The good thing, is with a solid concept and presentation, it’s very possible to generate your startup revenue from places like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or Venture Capitalists. For example, FedEx was started with almost $4million, and did not breakeven until many tens of millions of dollars later.
- Knowledge Barrier: This would be a business where you need very specialized knowledge to start it. Honestly, all good businesses will require specialized knowledge, but some will require more than others. A manufacturer like Caterpillar, or a commercial general contractor like my family company, CDS Contractors Inc, would be good examples. The good thing is if you don’t know something, you can always educate yourself and find a partner to shore up your knowledge gaps.
- Network Barrier: “Network = Net Worth”. This is the barrier that follows that philosophy. This barrier is all about knowing the right people. Perfect examples of this would be the music or modeling industry. However, Social Media and our increasingly connected world have made it so much easier to overcome this barrier.
Does your business fill a legitimate customer need? If you are chasing money instead of needs, you will always find yourself struggling to keep customers.
Trust me, and trust MJ Demarco’s advice. If you help 1 million people with any of the following needs, you will inevitably earn the money.
- Make them feel better
- Help them solve a problem
- Educate them
- Make them look better
- Give them security
- Raise a positive emotion
- Satisfy appetites
- Make things easier
- Make things faster
Can you focus on being the architect of your business by multiplying the return on your time? Go into your business with delegation and automation as key targets as soon as possible. Some businesses are so time intensive, and knowledge-based that it is nearly impossible to multiply your return on time.
An example of a business that is difficult on time is a highly specialized single-service business such as an independent adjuster who prepares estimates for insurance claims. However, even specialized businesses can be broken down into individual parts of a system that can then be automated or delegated. They will probably just require more creativity or be more expensive to automate than other business ideas.
How large and accessible is your potential market? This where you can determine the profit potential of your business idea, and the time or cost it will take you to capture market share. In the past, it was harder to build niche businesses because of the difficulty of finding and acquiring clients. However, times have now changed with the advent of extremely targeted ads through social media and Google.
Don’t be afraid to go niche! But make sure your market has at least 10,000 possible clients in a Facebook group or Subreddit somewhere. Otherwise, it will probably be too niche to be massively successful.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you go too broad, you may find yourself competing with big fish that have way more resources than you do. Try to find that sweet spot between niche and broad to maximize your profit potential and return on time investment.
Don’t let fear of committing to an idea stop you from taking the leap and starting your business! If your business strongly satisfies at least three characteristics of the CENTS Framework, there is opportunity there. No business will exist without its unique challenges. But starting your business while knowing how it fits in the framework will help you focus on reinforcing its strengths, while shoring its weaknesses as much as possible.
I truly hope you enjoyed this article, and found applicable value in it. My goal is to help one million business owners start and build their businesses before I kick the bucket, and I am truly grateful and honored that you have chosen to take my nugget of knowledge along for your journey. Subscribe to and share this blog for more excellent ideas and education to build your successful business. Good luck on your business journey, and I wish you the greatest success!