We’ve all heard that the way to succeed in business is to invent a better mousetrap. And some business owners despair, because they aren’t that inventive.

But we don’t necessarily need to invent a different kind of mousetrap, some revolutionary concept that reinvents the relationship between mouse, man, and death. You don’t need to be Steve Jobs and come up with the iTrap.

You can do very well in business making regular old mousetraps, but making them better, or cheaper, or delivering them faster, or getting them to distant markets where they’ve never heard of mousetraps, or selling them with a smile so that your customers love and are loyal to you. You could offer to bait them for your customers or come to their house to dispose of the dead mice. The combinations for success with the venerable mousetrap design are endless.

Consider the humble haircut. As near as I can tell, no one has invented a new way to cut hair in quite some time. But it seems like there’s a haircut place on every corner in my town. Why? Well, (almost) everyone needs his or her hair cut. There’s a big market to share, but they don’t really compete by offering a different product. They all offer essentially the same product. They differ slightly on quality, service, price, convenience, and amenities, whatever. Some will tell you that they have a better mousetrap because they’ve radically reinvented the hair cutting experience. Whatever. Look, there are better and worse haircuts, but they are still just haircuts.

My point is this: don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be Steve Jobs and invent the iTrap or some other new clever widget. I’ve reached the place in life where I’m comfortable and content buying from certain businesses, not because they do something different, but because they do something better. I have my favorite coffee shop, my favorite lawn care guy, and my favorite haircut place.

The shrewd businessperson can find plenty of ways to succeed. If you can’t build a better mousetrap, be better at selling the regular ones.

Greg is the founder and chief creative officer of Black Lake Studio (www.blacklakestudio.com). He is also a writer and speaker, working in a variety of non-fiction and fiction genres, and frequently collaborates with other authors. You can read and learn more at his site, SmithGreg.com. (www.smithgreg.com).
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