Rethinking Business

What if that’s it? What if we’ve reached our limit? With all the talk about a changing landscape, world of abundance, a connected economy, what if we just can’t do any better?

What if the top-down, broadcast marketing and gimmicky sales is all we can do? After all, with numbers like this, maybe this whole “digital and automated world ” is a fad after all…let’s just stick to our guns and continue doing it the same old way.

You know, it might work for Amazon or Apple or Google or LinkedIn, but our customers aren’t like that. So there is no need to see further. Let’s stick with the what’s been done, here is good, let someone else worry about tomorrow, it doesn’t apply to us.

It’s Tuesday today, Wednesday won’t come around.

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A product the marketplace hasn’t seen before is either novel or new.

When you offer novelty, it’s usually easy get trials; it’s easy to get users to sign-up and try it out. The challenge is converting that trial into adoption. The solutions usually revolve around growth, engagement, good enough and rapid prototyping.

On the other hand, when you offer something new, the challenge is getting people to try it out in the first place. New is scary and hard to accept, but when they do, adoption is usually quite easy. The solutions usually revolve around core users, radical shifts and maybe even scarcity.

You could say that most apps offer novelty – they’re easy to download and easy to forget. Twitter used to have that problem. Most new users would drop the platform after a few months. You could argue that Tesla offers new. The early adopters are sold, but most potential customers still have many questions and fears.

The next time you offer something else to your customers, think about whether you are offering a novelty or new. The implications are huge.

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When you launch something new – a new product, a new company, a new book, a new service – you need to give it a position in the minds of your customers. A client needs to understand this does that.

Most often we position ourselves within a category. We compare ourselves to the closest competitor we feel we’re up against. The drive then is to be better or different: “We’re better than them, more convenient.” “Most in the industry do it this way, we look at it another way.”

But sometimes being a snowflake has no value. If your customers can’t benchmark you, figure out what you offer or what space you’re in, you lose.

If different or better means we don’t get it, you aren’t better off. Instead build on the best practice. How are you like them?

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It’s convenient,
It’s practical,
It answers a need,
It creates and solves a problem,
It operates in a niche,
It rethinks a business model…

The list goes on. When you run a business or build a product, you hope to answer one (or more) of these questions. That would be your value proposition. What you do that no one else does.

Until someone else does.

It’s great to have a new or different way of doing things, but what will always set you apart is where you place your customer.

As Jeffrey Gitomer says:

All things being equal, people would rather do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people would still want to do business with their friends.

Everyone just wants to be heard and know they matter. Only when you figure out how to deliver that to customers, will you ever really stand a chance…

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For a company – the HR staff, the senior execs and even the employees – it’s easy to confuse seniority with experience.

Seniority is simply a measure of time spent at a company. If you’ve been there 1 year you’re less senior than if you’ve been there 10. That’s all seniority is.

Experience is a measure of the skills, knowledge and know-how accumulated. If you’ve worked in 5 different industries you have different skills than if you’ve worked in 1. It’s much harder to measure than seniority.

In fact, it’s for that precise reason that companies (startups and established companies alike) have put more emphasis on seniority than experience. Most, have no idea what experience specific rolls require. Do we need squiggly careers or more linear ones? Do we need practical or theoretical knowledge?

The assumption was that time-spent (seniority) equaled experience, but it’s increasingly apparent that isn’t the case. A new recruit with a breadth of experience probably has more value than the senior exec who hasn’t updated his knowhow.

This doesn’t mean seniority is a useless metric, it means it’s a dangerous one to use. Easy yes, but dangerous.

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Many small factors come to together when a team wins – good chemistry, talent, lucky breaks, home advantage. Most of the these can, from time to time, be determining elements. But below that there are two foundations that everything rests on. Without them the chemistry, the talent, the breaks, the advantage can only go so far.

The winning team has a game plan and the right members.

Without a strong plan, team members are lost: not sure of what they need to do. It leads to star status, selfishness and isolation. On the other hand and great plan can only be executed by the right players. If your plan requires a strong left-hand shot and all your players are right handed, the plan will fall short.

A game plan is a theory on how to win. It outlines what you believe needs to happen for success to happen. It even defines what success is. Naturally, it also outlines what’s expected out of each team member. Success relies on a strong, predictable* plan that lies out exactly what success will look like. And then you need the right team members to make it happen. That can lead to difficult choices. Some will have to be let go or moved. Others will be called up to take the place.

If you aren’t going where you feel you need to, look to your game plan and your team.

*predictable doesn’t mean safe, boring and unimaginative. It means the players know what to do and what’s expected.

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A business is a theory. It’s an idea about what what the world needs and what the world should look like. As with any theory, some are right and some are wrong. The only way to truly test is with a clear set of assumptions and a path to prove its validity.

Sure there will be adjustments along the way, but it’s okay if the theory falls flat or doesn’t go as far as you had hoped for.

The trick then is that you set out to actually test your idea. The Resistance will push you to tweak and tinker before the time. It’s easier than you can imagine to sabotage your test.

You have the idea, so draw the path, establish the priorities then tweak as you go.

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If you look at the numbers, feature phones are much better than smart phones – longer battery life, sturdier and longer lasting.

Of course those numbers aren’t measuring the true difference between the two types of devices. A smart phone puts the world in the palm of your hand, it redefines what that internet is. Feature phones are better cordless phones. Although that’s what you might need, fact is they’re completely different devices.

Many companies get caught up with the wrong metrics. They’re wrong not because they’re false, but because they’re used to compare apples and oranges as though they were the same. They completely miss what the objective is. No need to run after Followers if what you need is profits.

Look for what matters first and find a way to measure that.

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Myopia means you can’t see the horizon. We have have corrective tools that allow us to once again see into the distance (glasses, contact lenses, surgery).

Myopia isn’t just a physical ailment. We all suffer from it from time to time. Marketers suffer from it, so do sales people and programmers too. Employees suffer from it as well as their bosses. Husbands, wives and parents do to…

We get caught up in what we do, our daily tasks, our performance reviews, our targets, our problems, our issues, our situation; we forget to put on our glasses so to speak. We forget to ask ourselves: what business are you really in? What are you trying to achieve? Why are we doing this?

Every action and reaction has a purpose, part of a bigger whole. It’s too easy to get caught up in our little world we forget to put our glasses on – what need are we fulfilling? What purpose does this have?

It isn’t as easy as putting your glasses on in the morning, but it’s just as important. Stop and ask why?

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