Cutting out the middleman: a business model revolution

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When Lean Cuisine launched in 1981, my parents got all their food at Bruno’s Grocery, a five-minute Volkswagen Bug ride from their condo.

Bruno’s had three frozen aisles. At the end of one of those aisles were all the ready-to-eat meals available for young Allen and Stella: Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, and a couple others.

My parents might have seen the “Try Lean Cuisine: Good tasting entrees at less than 300 calories” marketing campaign on the local news. But unless Bruno’s carried the meals, my parents would have had no way of buying them.

Because shelf space was scarce, Lean Cuisine needed to sell Bruno’s on the idea of carrying healthy ready-to-eat meals.

You know who wields the most economic power by noticing whose names are attached to the newest buildings in town. In Birmingham, it was the Bruno Family. Across the country, local grocery chain moguls were supporting parks and hospitals and theaters. Competition was minimal and groceries were recession-proof.

Over the next few decades, Bruno’s faced increasingly more competitors as Walmart and others grew into behemoths – doubling and tripling shelf space supply in Birmingham. But the new shelf space supply never outpaced the shelf space demand. Hence why Maxwell House and Jell-O and and Kool-Aid and Honey Bunches of Oats all got rolled up into one conglomerate; it took banding together to fight back against the pricing power of shelf space scarcity.

And then the Internet came along. The doubling and tripling of shelf space supply got multiplied by several magnitudes. Nowadays, shelf space is an endless scroll of pixels on an iPhone.

Shelf space scarcity is dead. Distribution is a commodity. Attention is the new scarce resource.

Before Amazon, Lean Cuisine’s customers were grocery store executives. Sure, they ran Super Bowl ads; but what really mattered was that the product was on the shelf when my parents went to Bruno’s.

After Amazon, my parents had an explosion of choice. Lean Cuisine needed to convince my mom to choose their meals over the hundreds of other options proliferating everywhere.

Nowadays, it’s Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin who’re building the hospitals. Companies pay the Facebook Tax in order to convince you to buy their product over the other 1,000 options popping up on Instagram. Companies pay the Google Tax to appear at the top of search results. Your attention – not Bruno’s shelf space – is now the product.

And it’s not enough to buy a customer’s attention once. Brands have to sell their products to the same customers again and again in order to make money. To keep the customer’s attention, they’re up against competing products, email inbox saturation, Instagram ads, web ads, cat memes, Trump tweets, news and everything in between screaming for mental headspace.

What’s the new business model innovation? How do brands maintain a relationship with their customers in this hectic environment? How do they repeatedly sell to their customers over and over again?

Two ways. First, by having a real relationship with their customers. Second, by getting them onto recurring plans.

We at Bottle want to help brands text with their customers, and keep the customers ordering every week.


Bottle is the best way for meal prep businesses to sell to their customers week after week. Combining a simple text-based CRM with powerful subscription, e-commerce, and marketing tools, Bottle helps you grow your revenue, retain customers, and keep your cool.

How we work at Bottle: 6 Things Methodology

1. Backstory of the 6 Things Methodology

A few years ago, I came across “6 Things,” otherwise known as the Ivy Lee method, while reading an article by James Clear. The legend is that Bethlehem Steel CEO Charles Schwab hired Ivy Lee, a PR and productivity expert, to come help his executives get more done.

Ivy Lee said he’d be happy to help. Schwab asked how much it’d cost. Lee told him to wait three months, and then pay him whatever Schwab thought was fair.

So Lee met with each executive. And this is what he said:

  • Each night, write down 6 things you want to get done the next day.
  • Rank them by level of importance.
  • Focus on the first task. Once completed, move to the next one.
  • Do this every work day.

2. The beautiful tie-in with Process Goals

There are two types of goals. Outcome Goals and Process Goals. Most people set Outcome Goals. “I want to run a marathon.” “I want to save $100,000.” “I want to make the varsity basketball team.”

The problem with Outcome Goals is that they are out of our control. Ultimately, you can’t control bear and bull markets; you can’t prevent the company you work for from going bust. You can’t prevent 10 other basketball players better than you from attending the same school.

But you can control what you do every day. You can control whether or not you wake up and run for 30 minutes every morning. You can control whether or not you shoot free throws for an hour every day. You can control what you choose to focus on at work. 

These are Process Goals. All of our goals at Bottle are process goals. 

The 6 Things Methodology aligns perfectly with Process Goals. You can’t control whether or not you’re the best at your job, whether you can run 26 miles, whether you can save enough to buy a house. But you can control today. You can prioritize the things you need to do today to make this day a successful and complete day.

Over time, getting 6 things done every day will compound. And you’ll put yourself in a position to achieve your Outcome Goals. And that’s the best you can do.

3. Things I’ve found

Creating my list at night is hard. I usually do them first thing in the morning. But, doing them at night is more calming.

The more specific the task, the better. If I feel like I have way more than 6 things, that’s okay. But I’ll choose 6 that absolutely must get done. The smaller the task the better.

For example, programming tasks can be big. Oftentimes, I will make one of my 6 tasks just the very first step in the programming task (writing a test, creating a controller, defining a method). Then, I’ll plan on chipping away at the next step the next day.

A lot of days I fail. I fail to make the list. I fail to complete the list. That’s okay. Try again tomorrow.

Personal tasks are okay to include. Those are important too.

4. Why I like doing 6 things

It provides an actual end to my work day. Ending my work day is important.

It narrows my focus.

The system aligns with the idea of process goals. I can’t focus on outcomes, only the minutiae of the daily day-to-day.

5. How much did Schwab end up paying Lee?

$25,000 (about $400,000 in 2019 dollars)