Nothing Happens Until Something Is Sold

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

As Gene Bedell wisely reminds usnothing happens until something is sold.  That is one of the greatest business truths you can ever learn.  Get it engraved on the back of a watch, keep it in your pocket inscribed on a small sheet of paper, or repeat it to yourself silently, but learn this principle so that it is one of the deepest, closely held secrets held in your heart.  

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There have been tobacco barons and dynamite kings, steel lords and textile magnates.  All of these originated because the men or women behind the empire had something to sell.  They had either a product or a service that a lot of people desired and were willing to pay for to make their own life better.  

Everybody Sells Something

Nothing Happens Until Something Is Sold

Everyone is selling something. It might be a product that can be put in a pretty package or a service that is intangible, but if you generate cash, you are selling something. Doctors sell experience and knowledge. Churches sell the idea of God. Software companies sell the license right to code. Toll bridges sell easy crossing over a river. Image © Shutterstock

If you generate any form of cash, you sell something.  There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • Restaurants such as McDonald’s or Chipotle sell food and beverages in exchange for cash.
  • Retail stores such as Walmart and Target sell millions of individual products in exchange for cash.
  • A local barber sells a service, a hair cut, in exchange for cash.
  • A local church sells an idea and a mission in exchange for cash.
  • Media, such as a television show (e.g., It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), sell advertising space in front of an audience as well as entertainment itself in the form of rentals and purchases of DVDs, instant downloads, etc.
  • An independent graphics designer sells ideas, concepts, and artwork in exchange for cash.
  • An insurance company sells a promise in exchange for cash.
  • If you collect a paycheck, you are selling your time in exchange for cash.
  • Lawyers sell knowledge, experience, and connects in exchange for cash.
  • A parking garage sells space in exchange for cash.
  • A doctor or dentist sells healthcare, longer life, and physical comfort for cash.
  • If you inherited wealth and have it invested, you are selling access to your money to be used for productive means, such as building factories or hiring new employees at the companies in which you have an ownership stake.

You cannot generate a sustainable stream of money in your life without selling something.  In this case, selling is merely a short-handed euphemism for creating or possessing something that another man or woman desires and is willing to trade to acquire or utilize.  Social workers sell oversight and supervision.  Soldiers sell the willingness to kill and be killed.  The total money you generate depends on a combination of average transaction amount and total transactions.  You can try to price low and generate a lot of transactions (Walmart) or price high and generate fewer transactions (Tiffany & Company).

Never make the mistake of assuming that society doesn’t value you or that you aren’t valuable if you can’t earn a decent living.  Instead, figure out why society isn’t valuing what you’re selling and then modify the product or, if you are unwilling to do so, learn to live with the results.  

What Are You Selling?

Everyone has different needs, wants, and values so you should ask yourself:

  • What am I selling?
  • How much am I charging per unit (item, hour, etc.)?  
  • Am I earning a good return on both time and money invested?
  • Do I want to spend the 477,700 +/- hours I have before death selling this product or service?  
  • Is there something I’d rather be selling?  
  • If there is something I’d rather be selling, why aren’t I selling it?  What is stopping me?  
  • If something is stopping me from selling what I really want, how can I get past that obstacle?
  • Is selling this product or service ultimately capable of allowing me to afford the lifestyle I desire?  Is it scalable?  Is it expandable?  

Say it again and take it to heart: Nothing happens until something is sold.  It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, how great your idea, how much better your product than the competition, or whether you are a nice person.  Until you convince a person, acting in their own self-interest and free will, to exchange cash for whatever it is you’re selling, nothing happens.