An Interesting Place to Put Your Cigarettes

“I’m sitting on the porch of a bungalow on the Yucatan Peninsula with lit cigarettes sticking out of both my ears.”

That’s the opening line of Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston. The narrator has consulted a doctor because his ears were clogged, and the cigarettes were the prescription:

“When my ears become clogged, I must stick a cigarette into each one and light them. The cigarettes, that is…

The cigarettes burn and create a vacuum in my ears, sucking the moisture into the filters. I have a towel draped over each shoulder to catch the hot ash as it falls. I’ve been doing this for a couple of days a week for years and it always works.”

In the pharmaceutical world, this would be called an “off-label use” – using a medicine for something other than it’s officially-approved purpose. And the concept may be a great way for you to get through an economic downturn.

New circumstances create new problems. If you can repurpose your existing product, service or skills, you may be able to create a new revenue stream. For example:

  • Recognizing the public’s increasing fear of germs, Kleenex came out with a line of anti-viral tissues.

  • As mortgage jobs have disappeared in many parts of the country, resilient loan officers have found new demand for their skills as “workout specialists”, helping homeowners avoid foreclosure.

  • Looking for an edge in the competitive aesthetic medicine market, a New York doctor decided to specialize in tattoo removal. Aging hipsters have flocked to his practice.

Take some time to gather your front-line employees, and brainstorm a bit. What’s the most unusual request you ever received from a customer? Were you able to solve the problem?

Other customers might have the same problem – perhaps they’d pay you to fix it.


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