“The Muffin Tops” was part of season 8 for our selfish foursome of oddballs. It marked another of Elaine’s forray’s into the world of business. This episode also taught hairy men everywhere about the dangers of chest shaving. (It does come back thicker and darker) There is also a hilarious Newman as Harvey Keitel spoof at the end. And for those who haven’t seen this episode 6 or 7 times, these muffin tops have nothing to do with the other kind you might be thinking of.
There are several lessons to be gleamed from this one, but at the top of the list is the need for constant innovation within your business. All you have to do is Google Kodak Cameras (kids- ask your parents about these guys) to learn about the power of innovative thinking and its importance in business survival.
As Elaine demonstrates, innovation isn’t just a buzzword for tech firms. The simple slashing of a muffin stump created an inflection point in the powerful drama that is the muffin industry. Regardless if you mow lawns, cut hair, make plasma tv’s, or sell muffins, you must constantly innovate. The alternative to innovation is commoditization and very few can win that game based on large volumes, low prices, and thinner-than-thin margins.
This doesn’t mean you have to innovate strictly based on your product or service attributes. It could be a new way to take payment, easier scheduling for the client, more flexible hours, or other service delivery functions of the business. Or maybe it’s offering an additional product/service in complement with what you already do.
The other lesson here is that of the vulture – and I mean that in the most positive way I can. The muffin top idea was all Elaine, but the business that came from it was pure Mr. Lippman. Elaine, in an innocent conversation with her former boss, lays the muffin top idea out there on a silver platter but does nothing with it. It’s Lippman who pounces on it and opens up Top of the Muffin to You! Elaine learns the hard way that business success isn’t about a great idea, it’s about great execution.
While I am not advocating that you steal every idea you can, I do want to impress upon you the importance of following through on your ideas. Many times that takes the form of asking others for advice, something many entrepreneurs are afraid to do. They don’t want to let their amazing ideas out there for Lippman’s to steal. My advice: find folks you trust, confide in them 100% with your endeavors, and you’ll be surprised at how much farther your ideas will advance. Along with that, stay away from Lippman and eat your muffin stumps –after all, they are the part that has all the nutritional value.
Dan Beenken is Director of the UNI Small Business Development Center