Shamelessly Copying Others is the Fastest Route to Growth
I readily admit I am a copycat and a groupie. I love sitting back and soaking in the stories, insights and energy of business owners. It may be a quick discussion at a local café, or a longer roundtable exchange on a new technology or business challenge. At times I leave with a quick tip, at others with an entirely new direction, but I always feel that I am moved forward.
So over the years I have learned to shamelessly “copy” the best ideas of other business owners. In this blog I will pass them on to you (and hope you’ll do the same with your comments below). Here I share some of the “big ideas” I have learned from successful business owners:
- Your “back story” is your brand. Every business and every business owner has a “back story”. I have yet to meet a successful business owner who created their business for purely profit motives. Sure, there are often attractive balance sheets and sales projections. But if you ask any owner WHY he or she started the business, the answer rarely involves dollars. Instead the owner speaks of other “bottom lines” such as life balance, creative expression, problem solving, service to the community, or giving others meaningful and just employment. These stories are not only the genesis, but also the ongoing “magnet” of a successful small business: pulling clients, employees and investors into that visionary core. Honestly, this “back story” is the most powerful marketing message of any successful enterprise. If you tap into its power, you have a message that is strong and differentiated.
- Adapt or die. Technology, the economy, communications, and employee culture – it is all constantly changing. Rather than grumble and hide, successful owners jump in to understand, and maybe even embrace, change as a potential opportunity. I am always impressed by the scores of owners from diverse backgrounds and age groups who attend Social Media seminars. They may be scared and skeptical, but they invest the time to learn and decide whether these new forms of client communication channels will serve their business – that’s gutsy.
- The biggest steps forward often come after falling down. I have yet to meet a successful owner who did not have stories of past failures and bankruptcy. But these failures were often the critical turning point in getting out of a wrong industry, product line or partner relationship, and then refocusing on the right business that worked for his or her unique assets and goals.
- Know thy strengths, and outsource the rest. Savvy owners grow their businesses by leveraging their time and talents. That means they delegate the $5 per hour tasks, and strategically focus on high value sales, client relationships, training and/or product development. We all start as lone entrepreneurs, but the successful companies learn to create a web (centered around their “back story”) and extend their reach.
- Focus on the Next Best Three Steps. Not 300 or even 10 but three priorities. The most efficient owners I know are clear on what three things at any given time will move their business forward. They act, delegate or cajole with a focus on these priorities and, although their days are filled with incessant calls, emails and crises, they still move forward.
Your Next Best Three Steps?
1) List business owners you admire for their financial success, cool ideas or empowering company culture. They do not need to be in your industry.
2) Follow them, listen to them, watch them, stalk them. Use tools like Twitter and Google Alerts to keep tabs on what they do and how they do it. Keep a running “ah ha” journal, to break out for your planning sessions.
3) Watch out for copycats. If you see others copying you, take note! You know you have hit gold. Keep those reflections as well in your “ah ha” journal.