Saturday, December 23, 2017

Copying What Works

We want to coach our children, we want to give them the best advice we can to help them through life.  Here is a piece of advice I gave my son:  Copy what works.

Here is a perfect example from the obituary of Macon F. Brock Jr, founder of Dollar Tree. (  Mr. Brock was inspired by a chain called Everything’s a Dollar. He believed he could improve on the idea.  Mr. Brock, his brother-in-law and H. Ray Compton, started opening dollar stores in 1986, under the name Only $1.00, starting with five locations.

The chain Everything’s a Dollar was not the country’s only other dollar store, but the company did sue Only $1.00, forcing it to change the name of stores in overlapping markets to Dollar Tree.  “We ripped off what they wanted to be. Not what they were,” Mr. Brock wrote, adding, “We hoped to occupy the same role in the dollar business that Henry Ford had in the car business.”

Macon Brock copied an idea that worked, but his execution was better so his store, Dollar Tree, survived while Everything’s a Dollar did not survive, but eventually went bankrupt.

I have previously written a post, Teaching Our Children Exploitation is Better than Innovation (May 14, 2017).  Copying what works is a benign form of exploitation.  A less benign form is described in the movie The Founder, starring Michael Keaton (2106).  In this movie you see how Ray Kroc became very wealthy from the ideas the McDonald brothers licensed to him, while treating the McDonald brothers with questionable fairness.  Ray Kroc's exploitation of the ideas developed by the McDonald brothers portrays why the word exploitation has negative connotations.

Honor and fairness are lessons we also need to impart to our children.


PS: Mr Brock wrote a book about his business:  One Buck at a Time: An Insider's Account of How Dollar Tree Remade American Retail by Macon Brock and‎ Earl Swift