Be First, Be Daring, Be Different

Some time ago, I opened up a fortune cookie at the conclusion of a Chinese dinner and read this:

“To Be Successful in Business Be First, Be Daring, Be Different.”

I dropped the fortune into my nearly empty tea cup. But then it struck me that this little slip of paper extolled the exact advice I give many of my clients—not just about business, but about careers and as a way to live their lives. It really did say something about someone’s future! I dug the wet fortune out of the cup with a fork, dried it off and saved it.

These days almost everything on the market has become a commodity–like apples in a supermarket.  If you want one, you look for the juiciest one you can get at the lowest price. You don’t particularly care what farm it came from or who the distributor is.  Twenty or so years ago, if you wanted a computer, your choices were an IBM (First), an IBM “clone” (Daring), or an Apple computer like the MacIntosh (Different). Today, however, if you want a computer, you may still want a brand name, but unless it’s an Apple (Different), you are unlikely to care which brand name it is. In other words, name-brand computers have, for most of us, become . . . well . . . expensive apples—commodities that are not unlike fruit in the supermarket.

Has it happened in your industry? To you? Does your business or product or service look to your customers and clients like supermarket fruit? Is the only way you can think of to compete by price, resulting in smaller margins, less revenue and significantly weaker client/customer loyalty?  When you’re First or Daring or Different, your competitors are the supermarket fruit, but you’re not one of them. You’ll attract the people who don’t want just any apple. They want YOU.

Take a stab at being First, Daring or Different:

  1. Change your business. If you’ve been telling people you run a [whatever you do] business that works with anyone and everyone, stop doing that.  Be the number one company in a category.  Be the one that dares to _____.  Be the only one around whose fee structure is _____.  First, Daring, Different.
  2. Articulate your unique value to your customers. With so many choices, why should they be working with you and not someone else in the same business?  Do what you can to keep price from being the distinguishing factor.
  3. Get help with your brand, your leadership, and your services. Turning yourself from an apple into anything else is never easy. That’s one reason why top executives hire coaches.

Whether you get help or not, to be successful in business be First, be Daring, or be Different. And keep REACHING…