What’s Your ‘Thing’?

purple cow

These days it’s easier than it’s ever been to start a business. It can be a full time thing or just something on the side. People are starting businesses as a ‘Side Hustle‘ and making real money with almost no investment and very little risk.

These days it’s harder than ever to succeed at a business. Partially because there’s so much noise out in the marketplace (see point above) and partially because expectations are higher. If you are just doing the same thing that others are doing in your industry, you’re in trouble.

If you have a business that’s been around for a long time, has some built advantages (like location, history, brand or intellectual property of some kind) than you certainly have a better chance to compete but it’s no guarantee.

Check out this list of notable bankruptcies for 2019 (so far)… Looks like it won’t be ‘Forever 21’ – we won’t be paying less anymore at Payless Shoe Source and I don’t know that we’ll remember ‘Things Remembered’ or Gymboree.

Retail is challenging (hence all of the bankruptcies), but there’s a bigger problem that impacts every industry these days. If you want to thrive, if you want to avoid that painful spiral into the darkness, then you have to have a ‘thing’.

Wait… what’s a ‘Thing’ in this context?

Way back in 2002, author Seth Godin published the book The Purple Cow:

“The key to success is to find a way to stand out, to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.”

Seth Godin – The Purple Cow

And that challenge is even more of an issue today than it was back in 2002. The bottom line is that you have to find a way to stand out. To be remarkable. To have something that differentiates you from your competition in a positive way.

You don’t have to be the best (although that’s one way to stand out).

You don’t have to be the cheapest (generally not a good strategy unless you’ve got some kind of edge that others don’t have).

But you do need something that your customers value. That could be the experience that you deliver (think Southwest Airlines or Disney) or the quality of your product (Rolex, BMW?).

Here’s a smaller example – I just went to Sacramento for a long weekend and we had a chance to go to a great restaurant there – a place called Bacon and Butter – it’s a farm to table type of place that, as you might imagine, primarily does breakfast / brunch type of food.

Check this out…

At the top is their Biscuits and (bacon) Gravy and at the bottom is their version of Eggs Benedict – super creamy hollandaise over eggs and a 3 cheese grilled cheese sandwich on fresh Challah bread… and some bacon.

Their thing is bacon… and farm to table fresh. They also had Apple Bacon Fritters, Chocolate Chip and Bacon Cookies… and lots of other great stuff.

And they have 2 locations… and they were charging a premium… and they were packed with a wait, even during a week day at 10:30 in the morning!!!

Meanwhile, since you’ve read those sentences above, another 100 restaurants have gone out of business… and probably another 100 retail stores. Not to mention Business to Business service companies and manufacturers who are quietly struggling.

All because they don’t have a ‘thing’ that makes them stand out.

So… what’s your thing? What’s something that you do that people talk about (in a good way)? Or if you’re not sure you have one, what should it be? We’d love to hear your thoughts – or help you come up with one.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach

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