Blaze Your Own Trail to Business Success

BlazeYourOwnTrailSomething interesting happens between childhood and adulthood. As children, people tend to not want others to copy them. As adults, however, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to copy those around us. We see someone with a new idea, and all we want to do is imitate their accomplishments. Someone successfully develops a new app, and 50 similar ones seem to spring up overnight.

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s not always the key to success.

Consider this example: Two sisters, Anna and Mary, sit down together to draw pictures. As with many big sister/little sister pairs, Mary looks up to her big sister. She carefully watches as Anna sets about drawing a picture of their family house with everyone out in the yard. Mary picks up each crayon as Anna lays it down, then goes about copying her sister’s artwork.

After a few minutes, Anna notices what Mary is doing. “Mary, don’t just copy me!” she exclaims. “You have to make your own picture.”

Anna recognizes what many adults fail to see. If Mary simply copies her picture, she won’t be able to demonstrate her own strengths. If the sisters’ drawings are exactly the same, neither will stand out as unique. When they both create their own pictures, however, then each picture stands on its own merits and creative vision.

How to apply this to business

Developing new ideas in business is difficult. It takes a uniquely creative mind to come up with a useful service or product that no one else has thought of before. It can certainly be tempting to just copy another company or business model and hitch a ride on their road to success.

Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works. If you’re offering potential customers exactly the same product or service as an already established company, what reason would they possibly have to switch to you? Your business isn’t unique or special. Instead, it’s a copy of one they already know and trust.

Creating something unique

There’s nothing wrong with using another person’s success as a source of inspiration, but have confidence that you have something special to bring to the table, too. Find a way to work that into your business model.

For example, say you worked in retail for a considerable amount of time while putting yourself through school. You may decide to specialize in helping retail stores with their marketing plans. Or perhaps you’ve found new ways to cut administrative costs and are able to offer potential clients lower prices for the same high-quality service.

Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business pro, keep looking for things you can bring to the table that your competitors can’t.

Blaze your own trail. Find your own niche. And build your own success story other entrepreneurs will want to copy

How Time Management Can Pay Off

Sticky Notes for Time Management

Ivy Lee was born near Cedartown, Georgia, on July 16, 1877. The son of a Methodist minister, he studied at Emory College in Atlanta before graduating from Princeton University. He went on to found a PR firm, among many other accomplishments, before becoming a management consultant.

About a hundred years ago, Bethlehem Steel found itself in trouble operationally. The company’s chairman, Charles M. Schwab, hired Ivy to study the company’s ills and report back.

After some research and interviews, Ivy handed the chairman his findings and recommendations on a small sheet of paper. He then said, “Follow this, and your company can correct its problems.”

This short list of recommendations was directed at all the executives of the company:

  1. In the evening, each executive was to write down the six most important tasks to be done the next day and arrange them in the order of importance.
  2. The next day, they would start the first task and finish it before starting anything else.
  3. After finishing the first task, they would start the second-most important task, finish it, start the third task, and so on down the line.
  4. After their day’s work, before leaving the office, they would spend five minutes reviewing the day’s tasks and making a list for the next day. Unfinished tasks could be put on the new list.
  5. Each executive was to do this for the next 90 days and check the results.

Ivy left the chairman’s office, asking him to put the plan into action but to pay him only if the company got results. He further asked to only get paid whatever the chairman thought the advice was worth.

In two weeks, Schwab sent Ivy a check for $25,000. At the time, the average worker in the U.S. was being paid $2 per day, so this was worth approximately $325,000 in today’s dollars. He added a note saying this was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned.

Did it work?

Within five years, the Bethlehem Steel Company had become the biggest independent steel producer in the world. Schwab became the best-known steel man of his day and went on to make a hundred-million-dollar fortune.

The story of Lee and the advice he gave to Schwab is well-known in the business and self-development world. But even if you do already know it, it’s still worth studying again and again until it’s ingrained into your daily habits. The lesson to be learned is the importance of defining top priorities and focusing on those important items until they are finished, rather than letting the mundane and unimportant distract us. Master this habit, and you might be able to write your own $325,000 check.

Lessons from the Humble Shopping Cart

shoppingcart

In 1937, Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain, noticed that customers would stop buying more groceries when their arms got too full. He decided the solution would be to create something that would help his customers and, in turn, help him sell more groceries.

Sylvan and an assistant took a wooden chair, put a basket on it, and added wheels to the bottom to form the first crude shopping cart.

But the new invention didn’t catch on like Mr. Goldman had hoped. Men thought the carts were too feminine, and women said the carts reminded them too much of baby strollers. It seemed like the only folks using them were the elderly.

Instead of giving up, Mr. Goldman hired some young male and female models to push the new carts around Piggly Wiggly. The greeters would point out the models to the skeptical shoppers and explain the benefits. In a short time, the shopping carts became very popular, which in turn made Mr. Goldman a very wealthy man.
Here are a few lessons you can apply to your business from this story:

  • Pay close attention to your customers and how they use your products and services.
  • Observe and ask questions.
  • Determine what you can do to make customers’ lives better when using your products and services.

Sometimes an increase in revenues comes from simply helping your clients in small but meaningful ways, like the humble shopping cart.