How to start a profitable business without a good idea


“If you have one good idea, people will lend you twenty”
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach


Sitting in a bland corporate office, usually bored beyond belief, I often daydreamed about starting my own business. Work is almost always boring so I fantasized about this a lot.  Sometimes when work was completely soul destroying I’d get more serious about finding a start-up venture so I’d spend entire weekends hunkered over a battered notebook racking my brain for that 1 good idea.  Over a long period I scribbled enough ideas in dog eared pages to fully fill the journal. For all that effort I still wasn’t in business. I didn’t come up with a single idea that I could actively pursue to completely change my life.

I want to warn you not to waste your time trying to find a great idea. Truthfully your ideas probably aren’t all that good (how’s that for honesty?). The good news is that you don’t even need a good idea to be in business. I discovered that there really was only 1 thing I needed  to be in business and it wasn’t a great idea.

The only thing we need to be in business is 1 paying customer. If you have a customer paying you then you are in business. It’s really that simple. Focus on finding just one paying customer and you will discover that great idea quite simply.

The great idea comes out of addressing a need of a potential customer. That’s where the best ideas come from and the bonus is that you will have some certainty that this is an idea you can really make some money off of. If you are stuck in the great idea loop try shifting your focus from that 1 great idea to finding that 1 paying customer. For me it was the difference between getting into business for myself and forever being stuck on the sidelines waiting for a revelation to bowl me over.


Is socially responsible investing impossible?

“Successful people have a social responsibility to make the world a better place and not just take from it”
Carrie Underwood

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether it’s possible to invest ethically.

If you have a portfoliio you may want to invest in companies that are good to people or good to animals or good for the environment or all three. Trouble is socially responsible investing is much harder than you think. In practice my experience has been that it’s virtually impossible.

When you are investing you need a good return. That return has got to be better than the interest rates of a term deposit or why bother taking the risk? Then how ethical are we talking?

Most companies are a mixed bag. They make planes that help you to get around, but they pollute and another arm of the company makes military planes. Some are sold for peace keeping to one group while another group buys them for genocide. All from the same company. Meanwhile the commercial plane plant is taken off shore to the lowest bidder. People work hard for very little money and there are a lot of people out of work in the town where the plant used to be. Conditions of work in the new factory might be terrible and child laborers might be a major part of the workforce.

My view is that ethical investing is noble, but impossible without compromise. No company is the perfect mix of profitable and socially responsible. However, the act of simply considering who you are going into business with is a massive step forward from where we are now. Caring is key. Investing with a completely decoupled view solely focused on making money is never going to help change the world for the better.

What are your thoughts? Is it possible to invest in a socially responsible way?

About the LeM Blog

Thanks for checking out our blog!

We started <=> (Less = more) because we sincerely want to help you find a quick way to leave the rat race forever.

Working all your life for a dull corporation sucks!

We want to show you how to transition from corporate slave to economic nomad without stress, or the risk of ending up starving and homeless.

At LeM you’ll discover the most effective ways to live simply, to minimize your living costs and to generate the income you need without compulsory economic slavery.

Word of warning we’ll talk about life design, investing and living free from the corporation every chance we get!

Our family started this transition in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of the late 2000s. Businesses weren’t doing well at that time and that’s about when they go from stingy to downright mean. Everyone is under pressure to take a pay cut while hours climb. At times like that worklife can really grind you down.

Up until the GFC we were a pretty average family unit earning a couple of comfortable salaries, but spending it all on the coolest stuff.  We’d both graduated tertiary education (Uni/Polytech) and were about 10 years into the workforce by then.  We had a lot of debt, small savings, and a few nice things then one day…a new baby was on route to the moon-base.

Babies make you evaluate your life and we discovered we weren’t heading to a very smart future. We earned good money, but it was also well spent. Often before we actually earned it!  We had earned two decent salaries for over a decade yet we had only managed to stored away about one month’s worth of earnings and we were about to do a stint with one of those salaries disappearing completely.

The flat that we lived in was cluttered to the brim with crap. Much of what we owned we barely used and frankly there were several things that we were surprised that we owned when we finally laid them all out in the yard.

Somewhere here, at this place in time, things changed dramatically. Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Graham and my friend Dave share the blame. Actually it was a blessing. We stopped sailing into the mist and charted a deliberate course.

Soon afterwards the < = > philosophy started to crytalize. We began saving 75% of our income. We reduced spending on our home to 15% of our income, and paid all the other bills from the 10% that remained.  We began to actively invest and we started to buy and make assets (things that generate money) instead of loading up on consumer goods (things that cost money).

Our goal was to quickly (less than 3 years) earn enough to buy our freedom from full time salaried work.A major motivation was to have the freedom to kick back and play with our son in his most precious years.

Since then we paid off all our debt and killed most of our household expenditure and ongoing liabilities. We axed many of our bad financial habits permanently. No more cable TV, mobile phone plans, impulse buys, eating out every night, no gym memberships…

Our savings piled up. We bought a rental property, and then our own home. We set up a stock portfolio for the first time and we learned a lot about the challenges and benefits of living with less. Actually we began to enjoy living on radically less than we spent as our former free spending slave-selves.

We’re always toying with new ways to make money. We’ve had some success and some failure, but importantly our days now have more variety and massively more freedom than when we worked the McJobs. This blog is a combination of our philosophy, our experiences and summaries of the things that we have figured out on the fly as we transitioned from full-time workers to idle penniless aristocrats. Now we receive money from assets instead of slaving our lives away in McJobs that we both hate.

We’re really passionate on finding systems, opportunities, and actionable steps to help you to make this transition and join us on the other side! How can you beat beach time any Tuesday you please?

So welcome. Please subscribe for all our updates. We truly hope you find what you need to overcome your inertia and make that shift to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Mr & Mrs Simple

A holey moan about the stuff that sucks

“The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client”
William S. Borroughs

My shoes have holes in them again. It’s a bit annoying but it’s summer now so it’s not as bad as when it’s raining in the winter and the sidewalks, footpaths, byways and tracks are all soaked.

I always wear my shoes out directly under the ball of my foot. It’s the result of teaching myself to learn to walk as an adult. Before that I used to wear these high heeled men’s business shoes all day and over time my body forgot how to walk properly. I’d strike the ground on my heel when I walked. Maybe you do that too. If you’re so messed up you think this is natural take off your shoes and walk on a hard floor. What hits the ground first? Try to deliberately heel strike. How does that feel?

If you want lots of fatigue and body pain put shoes on and bash your heels on the ground. If not relearn to walk like I did. Anyway that’s all off topic. I’m having another moan about shoes. I need good-quality shoes, but most of the shoes around are short life junk or durable, but clunky. Too many are from the skin of an animal which seems weird to me to want to put your foot inside part of the carcass of a dead thing. Probably the main objection I have to another pair of new shoes is that they are so overpriced for the short life junk that they are. I get a few months and then I’m throwing them to the Dustman. So until I find something better I’ll just go on happy to walk with holes in my shoes and money in my pocket. Sometimes when I have problems like these I consider starting a company because I feel there isn’t any good competition, but then I remember why I don’t.
There is no money in making things that last. Only money in things that suck.

It’s a sad situation we’re in. Everything is made poorly when we have all the resources, intelligence, technology and materials to make amazing stuff that could easily be passed down within family lines.

That job of yours isn’t paying you anything like you think

“I was going to live on my salary or go down swinging”
Gene Tierney

For every dollar you spend you’ll need to earn two back. That is why saving and investing every dollar you can is so critical.

You have to earn two dollars because that dollar saved comes with expenses, but most of us have never really looked at the expenses of work. We think of work mostly in terms of our theoretical income.

There are expenses though. Lots of them. Your travel to work, the tax on that income, the property tax, your costume tax (suit and tie or the nice shoes and blouse), some food and the other things.

Most people don’t understand their real income per hour is nothing like what they see printed on their weekly pay check.

For starters say you earn $45 per hour. That sounds pretty good and works out to around $1800 per week gross. That’s based on a 40 hour week.

First deduct the tax and look at your net income. Let’s use a rate of 30% which is common (but may not be what you pay in tax). That drops your after tax take home pay to $1260. If you were still working the 40 hour week then your real rate of return for your work falls like a stone to $31 p/hr. Problem is that if you work in the western world you probably don’t work 40 hours. Turns out you work 55 and each day includes an hour commute to work in peak that’s 65 hours.

You are straight down from theoretical $45 p/hr to a little under $20 p/hr. Starting to sound a bit pathetic isn’t it?

Now deduct the MBA you are studying for at night to get a better qualification. Say you spend 2 hours on that 4 weekdays and 6 hours on the weekend you just dropped your rate to less than $16 bucks p/hr.

Now things are looking grim, but we haven’t even begun to consider the costs of working. You may buy your lunch for $10 per day and buy about $100 of new work clothes every week to keep your corporate wardrobe looking neat. You need a tank of gas for $70 or a train or bus ticket and we’re hitting $13 p/hr.

There are some costs we haven’t even considered. What about the time and money you spend to decompress. Say you sit watching TV for an hour after work in a semi vegetative state drinking a whiskey. Add those costs in. What about those costs of that MBA you are studying. Maybe you’re job requires you to pay some professional registration expenses. What about all those cell phone calls to home to sort out issues in your lunch break?

The reason I call it a McJob is that you think you are earning a hefty swag, but when you think about it you aren’t earning much more than you could get in some low ball menial job where you can walk from home, go home for lunch and wear track pants all day.

Do the calculation yourself and share in the comments below. It really puts that job of yours into perspective.

The idlers guidebook to the good life

There is no time like the pleasant
Oliver Herford

Life can be simple, pleasant and happy.

Make simple changes one at a time and keep a score card on whether life got better.

Sell your car and ride bikes.
Plant a garden and eat the plants you grow.
Rent a house and save yourself from maintenance and mortgages.
Sell your screens and cut off your internet. You’re smart so you can still access the web free when you feel like it.
Sell your wardrobe and almost all the clothes in it. You can only wear one shirt at a time.
Generate some electricity and income that doesn’t take too much effort.
Smash your bills down.
Quit your job.
Involve yourself helping others in your community.
Spend time making more friends.
Celebrate for no reason.
Play your own music and dance your arse off.

Die happy and contented. Surrounded by people that knew you intimately and loved you passionately.

Casting a better lens over the pursuit of freedom

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose


I’ve found the concept of freedom splits logically into one of two camps. The freedom from something and the freedom to do something. From or to.

Sure you want freedom from not have to limp to work in high heels at 6am on a howling mid-winter morning. Or the from having to sit in a grey office, breathing stale air, with people you hate being slowly suffocated by a button hiding piece of cloth tied around your jugular. What’s so fucking embarrassing about buttons that in order to hide them we are prepared to be choked all day?

I get what you want freedom from and having shared your experience for a part of my life I fully understand why most people want freedom from their work.

The other way to flip the coin is to think about freedom to…

Freedom to:
play with your kids
master the guitar
start a catering business
go kite surfing
sleep in
ride a mountain bike for 8 hours any Tuesday you feel like it
surf till noon everyday in summer

I’ve always advocated life design. Figuring out what you want and then chasing it both barrels blazing.

When you focus on freedom from its a negative trip that leads to stress. It’s the flight response. The running away to hide feeling creates a spiral of negative emotions, broken helpless thinking and unbelievable sadness and stress. However, if you flip it and look at freedom to do things you can created a completely different type of energy. ‘Freedom to’ leads to a new type of stress called eustress. This is a positive motivating energy that pulls you towards your goals. It’s night and day. The exact opposite of a stress reaction. You wake up inspired, energised and ready to get what you want out of life. Eustress wakes you up early. Time disappears. You get in the flow state where work is play and nothing can stop you from achieving the result you’ve targeted.

There’s no time to lose this is your life we are talking about. Do some visioning of what you’d like. How you would live your life post working. Make it exciting and compelling. Now figure out how to get there and take some action or are you going to just sit there ironing your neck ties.

How boring.