One advantage of the family business is that its inheritors literally know what they are doing. They don't have to decide from scratch what business they are in. Even so, turning the inheritance into a goldmine may require exactly the same talent needed to break new ground - imaginative awareness of the trends.

Thus, Howard Hodgson's coup wasn't buying his father's funeral business for a snip price of £14,000 in 1975. The success sprang from seeing that applying efficient business methods to Hodgson & Sons, and then to a series of acquisitions, would create an undertaking, you might say, of major size and significance.

The £6.5 million which Hodgson pocketed from finally selling his shares to the French was the reward for what two well-known academics, C.K.Prahalad and Gary Hamel, call 'reinventing' your industry and 'regenerating strategy'. That means taking an entirely different approach to the industry and to the way in which you manage your business.

You can achieve success by reinvention, or regeneration, or the two combined. Moreover, you can accomplish the twain either by coming from the inside, like Hodgson, or the outside, like former university don David Landau. The latter's business is classified advertising. The reinventing idea was to publish a magazine that sold copies, but published the small ads for free.

Purely as a spectator, I was in on the ground floor of this enterprise. It was explained to me by Landau's partner Dominic Gill, a friend who was then an excellent music critic on the Financial Times. A music critic? Naturally, I didn't take the plan as seriously as I should have done: today Loot has a £12 million turnover in London alone, a decade after starting up.

In a sense, Landau and Gill were reinventing the wheel: similar titles existed in other countries - Landau's inspiration came from seeing the Italian equivalent on a trip to Milan. If you haven't got a family business as base, imitation may well be the sincerest way of making money: Ray Kroc, for example, stumbled across his fortune by enjoying his meal at a hamburger joint named McDonald's.

The Loot pioneers had the intelligence to see that the classified ads business could be stood on its head. Earlier breakthroughs had been made by 'controlled circulation'. The publisher gave the magazine away free to all interested parties: accountants, say. Magazines like Accountancy Age then attracted large revenues for paying recruitment advertisers wanting to reach the total market.

Selling enough copies of Loot , though, meant finding enough people willing to place free ads. That chicken-and-egg problem almost sank the infant venture, but the enterprise won through, largely because Landau and Gill were riding a trend - in markets as diverse as secondhand PCs and singles seeking dates, advertising needs were booming.

To repeat, whether you're transforming a family business, or transporting somebody else's idea, or beginning from scratch, spotting the key trends is essential. In fact, one Faith Popcorn spotted that trend-spotting itself is just such a trend and proceeded to reinvent market research. Her company, BrainReserve, pooled expertise from many fields to forecast what consumers would buy years ahead.

The Popcorn Report lists ten mega-trends. 'Cocooning' (1) means people retreating into their homes for many things that are traditionally done outside: e.g, home shopping. 'Fantasy adventure' (2) can be enjoyed at home or outside; e.g, virtual reality arcades. Then there are 'small indulgences' (3), which are part of Body Shop's formula.

'Egonomics' (4) is the growing rage in marketing - fitting the product to the individual customer's wants: e.g, Mongolian restaurants where you select your own ingredients and sauces for fast hotplate cooking. 'Cashing out' (5) is what teleworkers do when they quit the office for home: e.g: multiple-use PCs for the domestic purchaser.

Popcorn's last five trends are 'downaging' (the refusal of people to get old), 'staying alive' (the health kick), 'the vigilante consumer' (environmentally sound products), '99 lives' (fast everything, not just food) and 'save our society' (anything from charities to recycling). All ten trends are already making money for reinventors and regenerators. To join them, understand the trend, look at what established firms are doing - and don't do likewise.



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