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Leadership Thought #254 – Don’t Be Like Everyone Else; Be Different

December 1, 2011

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Be Different!

In business, it is advisable to swim against the tide and not be like everyone else.  This doesn’t mean it won’t be equally or more challenging to navigate your business journey, but it does mean you have a choice as to whether you control your own destiny.   I’ve always been a fan of contrarian thinking because I’ve often seen it work.  Different will always eventually beat the status quo. Here are a few thoughts/observations for you to consider:

  • When it is a Bear Market, and everyone is selling in the stock market it can be a good time to buy because prices will be cheap as good stocks get caught up in the frenzy of mob mentality thinking.  Just make sure you do your homework and gauge the business fundamentals of the company stocks you pick.  Warren Buffett has made a fortune doing this.
  • When other companies are cutting staff, it can be an opportune time to invest and acquire premium talent at a discount.  After the first wave of downsizing, many companies have no choice but to let good people go, especially if their business is in real trouble.  There probably hasn’t been this much talent available for hire in my lifetime.  And, always remember that good people tend to pay for themselves.
  • At some point, someone in your industry/market will stop the bleeding associated with continuous price reductions and begin to build back up their profit margins.    Why not you?  You may lose some business in the short term but it’s better to opt for a more profitable business than continue to chase after work that barely allows you to keep your doors openBreak-even shouldn’t be a long-term business goal. You can price yourself out of business on both ends of the continuum.
  • Debt is a good thing if it creates leverage.  There are opportunities out there that may require capital you do not have.  Banks have provided the fuel for the engine of small business growth in our economy for a long time.  Many of your peers have become gun shy about taking on more debt (some for good reason).  If the bank is willing to lend you more money and a terrific opportunity presents itself, then don’t say no for the wrong reasons.  You may even have to shop at multiple banks to get the answer you want (which should be an expected part of doing business).
  • Technology is a tool that when properly utilized can be helpful to your business model but is rarely a panacea that fixes all your problems.  In fact, unwise technology decisions often create more problems and increase business stress.  Don’t hop on the technological bandwagon or make changes just because other people are telling you to do so and/or because it “feels” like the right thing to do.  In my experience with technology, it is better to be “late and right” instead of “early and wrong.”
  • Marketing and advertising expenditures aren’t just a luxury to be deployed when times are good, but a necessity to keep your business healthy and growing.   You need to continually invest in your own business development especially when times get tough.  It’s no coincidence that the companies who have struggled the most are those organizations that slashed marketing and sales budgets because they saw them as variable expenses that were less critical to their business model.  Never forget that without sales there is no business.


Bottom line is that to be successful in business you need to be different from your competition.  Simply following and succumbing to market norms is for losers.  Industries and markets are often too slow to react to momentous events/trends and then take far too long to recover.   Business rewards those leaders who are proactive about their destiny and make the conscious decision to lead rather than follow.  Be different, it pays off eventually.

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