Business Strategy: Be Different!

At the end of the day, there are really only two ways to win in business, assuming you have a viable market: (1) be like others and execute better or (2) be different. I’ve had clients who’ve succeeded in both camps, but those who took a different approach were more successful — both in top-line growth and in bottom-line results.

Over lunch, a friend described how he’d built his company in a nontraditional way in spite of the fact that a gaggle of industry consultants told him he was doing it wrong. Yet his organization is wildly successful compared with others in his industry. (By “industry consultants,” I mean those folks who go from company to company in an industry and repackage and resell the same content, thereby ensuring that all clients pretty much look alike.)

There are good reasons to “benchmark” others in your industry and to look at best practices for ideas on how to improve your business. I ski better when I ski with great skiers. I work out harder when I work out with those who are in better shape — and that number is growing rapidly! Sometimes looking at the best and aspiring to be like them is your best option. However, the truly great firms go their own way. Neither Steve Jobs nor Jeff Bezos nor the Beatles aspired to be like everyone else. Nor did my friend.

What do Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, the Beatles and my friend have in common? A clear vision and the confidence to pursue it even though they had to ignore all the lemmings and industry consultants! (OK, I’m making assumptions about Steve, Jeff and Ringo because I don’t know them, but I’m confident about my friend!)

It’s risky to be different. You subject yourself to ridicule, unemployment and even mental health professionals. It’s interesting, however, to think about the number of brilliant ideas people have self-censored because they lacked the confidence and conviction to risk failure.

Have I told you about the big-bodied, smooth, calorie-free red wine I’m working on that produces a headache-free euphoria? Please don’t tell my psychiatrist!

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of, Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be(Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email [email protected].

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