October 26, 2012

Business As Unusual

So many of us start our businesses – whatever those are – based on the models that we’ve seen laid out before us.  So, for example, you start a food business and sell through farmers’ markets or, in my case, you start a business resource site and utilize a website to get that information out there.  There’s nothing wrong with that but if all we do is copy the actions of those before us can we really expect to break through the clutter?  Sure, some of us will have better success than others due to a number of factors – some in and some out of our control – but we’re simply playing in someone else’s model.  What does it take to be really successful?

I’ve been thinking about the idea of ‘paradigm shift’ a lot lately as the theme of it has come up in multiple conversations I’ve had with entrepreneurs.   Small retail storefronts are being undercut by the big online giants, small brands are getting pushed off of store shelves by lower-priced bigger competitors, and even independent food trucks are now seeing their fast-food counterparts get behind the wheel.  It’s no doubt tough to be a small business but even harder when someone else made up all the rules.

So can we change the paradigm in a way that benefits us?  I don’t have an answer to this other than to say that I know it can be done and I’ve seen it done before.  For example, one glass maker opened up a storefront that only sells his and other locally produced crafts – none of which are sold to big box or through online channels.  Or the chocolate company that decided to start sending out a catalogue rather than trying to get a spot in someone else’s catalogue.  So there are ways…it’s just figuring out what might be the right way for you.

I realize the end of the year is still a few months away and this  may be akin to stores putting out holiday displays before Halloween is even upon us.  But I’d encourage you to put this thought in your head and let it sit there.  Is there anything you can do in 2013 that will shift the paradigm?  Is there something you can change that will WOW your customers?  Don’t be surprised if you don’t have any answers right away – I know I’m struggling with these very same questions myself! – but sometimes I’ve found by just putting the question out there and letting it percolate in your brain you sometimes find your way to an answer.

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