Tips to stop you becoming average.
Sorry I really shouldn't, but I need to ask... 'Have YOU become average?'
Thankfully there is good news on a personal level, we can never be average as that person does not exist. However in our business lives there seems to be an oversupply of companies hell-bent on becoming the 'best of average'. They love the endlessly battle over the middle ground, copying each other into extinction with little focus left for delivering a remarkable experience for their customers.
We never set out to run an average business, quite the opposite, most start off with the drive to be different, stand out, disrupt the marketplace or challenge the status quo. As they grow, the challenge is how to stay focussed without restricting themselves or dumbing-down their products to appeal to a wider mass-market. We should not forget that the uniqueness that lead most of them to a place of growth, is the reason their customers loved them and encouraged their success. Often by trying to grow or adapt to rivals, they start to become average and leave that uniqueness behind.
Even in the hiring process, we start-off looking for those creative rebels who could push us forward until we grow large enough to replace them with secure safer options. Human nature dictates that we hold-on to what we have, so we pivot to secure it at all costs while reducing risk. This can often be great for short-term business gains but a devastating cultural move.
So how can we stop becoming average players running average businesses?
Do something or get out of the way.
Nothing will happen unless YOU decide to do it. That sounds simple on paper but how often do we dip our heads below the pulpit when we need to voice our opinion? We notice the changes and altering customer behaviours but we do not move quick enough to address it.
There is not many of us that knows when to get out of our-own-way. This is half-the-battle.
Disruption, disruption, disruption.
Once you set out to change an industry you run the risk of becoming just another part or swallowed up by it, as you morph into a more significant player. This time can be difficult to navigate as the financial side of the business consumes and dictates the companies next direction. While all businesses should be profitable, the point where making money overtakes the purpose, it becomes a commodity.
How many 'digital first' marketers promised to disrupt the marketing landscape with all the new tools available to them, before lazily pushing the same products as their traditional competitors? Too many it seems, if you are to look at your phone each day. Digital marketing turned out to just be a more effective way to disturb us with adverts after all.
Then there are those who stuck to their guns and are slowly winning. Think Amazon, TransferWise, Dà-Jiāng Innovations (DJI)...need I say more.
I would also like to take a moment to celebrate the reluctant disrupters.... Airbnb. Their mission was to connect a small group of like minded individuals and in the process disrupted a 500 billion dollar a year industry.
Remember - You are not for everyone.
Staying unique in a smaller market can be a very successful approach once you find and serve those in that community. This is not a way of saying 'stay in your lane' more a call to double down and explore what else you can offer these customers before you decide to move on.
You could water down your product and try to go for mass-market-appeal but do you really need to in 2018? Small marketplace dynamics seems to have worked well for Rolls Royce Automobiles. Maybe you have heard of them?
Design for environments and human needs.
Try not to adopt trends, create them as you look towards the future. If you think about it for a brief moment, the unique products of our time have all been connection tools that allow us to be human on a grander scale. Be this the iPhone, Facebook, Google or the internet itself.
With this in mind, think how your products or services can define or build on our human needs. This is not an easy task as many see innovating as simply increasing the amount of bells and whistles on their product. In a world where we now view our smart phones as overly expensively average commodities, human emotions need to be placed at the top of your design lists.
Look at cars, while status still remains a factor in sales, practicality and safety are taking over. If I buy a 100K$ Porsche, the environment in which I drive it in, plays an equally important role as the specifications of the car itself. A top speed of 270km/h is insignificant when I spend most of my time dodging potholes in traffic at 40km/h. In this case, 95% of my focus is on comfort, reliability and ease of driving. Design for that!
Talk, describe, listen and learn.
If you own or operate a company, there is always a need to gain fresh input from those who have a vested interest in the company beyond the boardroom. Reattaching yourself or making it your mission to rediscover the business is often a great exercise. Turn up to places where you can gain unfiltered knowledge from junior members of your team or customers. Just being in a position to ask 'Why is that?" when someone mentions your company has changed is so valuable. That 20 minute conversation with a customer or a front-line employee can clarify your mission more than a 3 hour meeting with colleagues you see every day.
Huddles over Meetings.
Do you remember when your early meetings were in coffee shops or a quick huddle over a beer? At that time you constantly shared information as you worked, so why is it now you sit in meetings reviewing endless data waiting for someone to volunteer or be assign responsibility to do something. This can often be a futile exercise as your time is spent focusing on becoming average and not the future. It has become analysing past actions or asking someone to justify them.
How many meetings do you actually need? Go back to those quick 10 minute huddles that kept the information flowing but did not disrupt the business. Yes you have permission to attend that one key financial meeting a week but even then, you probably review that on a daily basis.
In short you do not have to become average to grow, you need to stay unique and shout about it those people who want to hear form you. In todays globally connected environment we could all purchase a hand-made 100% yaks wool sweater from the grandmothers collective in Mustang, Nepal. They would not need to diversify into anything else as the resources for the sweaters are unique to their area, they would just need enough people to becoming aware of them so they sell all they make at a premium.
Finding a niche and then innovating in that space is fundamental to the future of your business. If you do grow and expand into a larger mass-market then create another brand and team so you do not dilute your core unique one.
Just carry on being you...
Thank you for reading my thoughts, I hope it was interesting and started a conversation. Let me know in the comments box below.