3 Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Homeless


It’s Monday morning and you’re late again.  You rush out of the door with a dozen different concerns about the tasks awaiting you at the office.  As you sit parked at that stoplight you just can’t ever seem to catch green, a homeless knocks on your window with a cardboard sign and a tin cup looking for some spare change.

Normally you would roll down the window of your black 570hp BMW M5 and hock a loogie on him, telling him to get a job and a haircut.  Isn’t that what everyone does?

But today, you stop to think about all of the business lessons you can take from this brilliant business mind.  And no, we aren’t talking about lessons of failure, but rather, how homeless have actually outsmarted the system.  Lets look at 3 examples.

  1. Marketing

Good marketing is measured by ROI, and no one makes more per dollar spent than a homeless.  In fact, once that sign held up to your window makes one dollar, he is enjoying a complete profit.  How does he do it?  Repurposing waste.  For the small investment of the time it took to dig through a Starbucks garbage can and borrow a pen from your disgusted wife trying to enjoy her latte that morning, he crafted a simple yet emotional message: Will work for food.

The best part?  He IS working for food.  Well, alcohol and drugs, but the formula works: Emotional and Deceiving Message/Brand Image = Money.  All profit baby, and good for the environment.

2. Business Casual

Every Friday it would be nice to grab a pair of blue jeans with your Tony Robbins inspirational teeshirt and stroll into work relaxed.  But your company policy even sets a limit on ‘casual’.  And besides that, Galaxia in Accounting still insists on trying to make every Friday a fashion show.  Who needs that pressure?  You’re the boss, change the policy.  Learn from a homeless- they know relaxed.

When the crushing cost of living caused by your engineers salaries put them on the street, homeless took casual to another level.

So on Fridays, don’t shower, don’t shave, don’t even wait to walk to your bathroom when you can just urinate in the potted plant next to Galaxia’s cubical.  As they say, there is nothing like your own brand, and that is especially true of body odor.

3. Sales and Perseverance

So your advertising budget is getting eaten up by an expensive campaign, but you don’t have enough data to know whether or not to scrap it.  What do you do?  Learn from a homeless.

When you hock that coffee smelling loogie on your neighborhood panhandler, he just moves on to the next car.  He knows the simple truth of sales: it’s a numbers game.  Over the course of that day we will probably be rejected dozens of times, but eventually he will have a run of simple blue-collar people that care about humanity.

Perseverance is the key. Barring any unexpected tree-hugging outrage to the campaign itself, learn to show the patience it takes to see the true results.  Of course, a homeless will make a change when a pitch isn’t working.  If you don’t hit expected benchmarks, change your strategy.  Even a homeless knows when to ditch the ‘disabled’ routine and just hold a puppy.

So the next time you see that homeless at your window begging for money, roll your window down and thank him for the lessons that can be learned from his life.

But don’t touch him, that would be gross.



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