Can You Be #1 in the World?

Posted by:

A number of years ago I was conducting an all-day workshop for Philips, the consumer electronics and healthcare giant, and I found out that one of their core principles was to not be involved in any business that they couldn’t be #1 or #2 in the world at. Now, for a large company like Philips, this is not an unusual principle. Many global businesses have adopted similar goals for themselves. My question is this:

Why is it that so few small businesses assert this principle for themselves?

Many small business owners seem to feel that it’s enough to simply get a business license and put an ad in the Yellow Pages (does anybody even use the Yellow Pages anymore?). They don’t appear to put any effort into really differentiating themselves from their competition. Don’t take my word for it, though. If you can find it, pull out your own Yellow Pages and go to the listings for, say, plumbers. With very few exceptions, they’re all saying basically the same things: quality service, fast response, competitive prices. So you end up going with whoever’s got the biggest ad.

But what if one of these plumbers were to take an afternoon, or a day, or a weekend, and sit down with a piece of paper and just think. Think about what? This question: What is it that I can do better than the other guys? What is it that I can offer that will truly set me apart from the competition? I’m not in the plumbing business, but our enterprising plumber’s list might include things like:

  • I can guarantee a response within 30 minutes (this single idea seemed to work for Domino’s Pizza)
  • After each plumbing job, I can offer a thorough kitchen or bathroom cleaning
  • I can bring home-baked cookies with me for each customer
  • I can leave a small vase of fresh flowers after each job
  • I can create an easy-to-use on-line response system for my customers and prospective customers

Sure, some of these ideas might be terrible; some might be great. It only takes one. But a day spent like this would certainly be more valuable than the alternative, which pretty much boils down to an ad that says, in essence, “I’m a plumber. Hope you hire me.”

When the Beatles were just starting out, they set a goal for themselves: they were going to be bigger than Elvis. Elvis Presley. The King. The Beatles, at the time, were a very small business. But they set a goal as audacious as Philips’: to be #1 or #2 in the world. How did the Beatles differentiate themselves? Primarily through their songwriting. So, instead of going into the marketplace and saying “We’re a rock and roll band,” which would set them apart from nobody, they went into the marketplace and said, “We’re a rock and roll band and we write our own songs!” which set them apart (at the time) from practically everybody.

So what is it that you can do better than anyone else? What service, what benefit, can you offer that the competition either can’t, won’t, or just plain doesn’t? Schedule a day with yourself, or with your team, and come up with a list. It worked for the Beatles, it worked for Philips, and I’ll bet it will work for you as well.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
  Related Posts