Rethink your business by what you know not what you do

I was talking with a friend business owner this weekend about growth opportunities. Our conversation took a turn when he expressed to me that it’s hard to compete when there are a lot of other businesses offering the same thing he does. Well my friend, it doesn’t have to be that way.

For the sake of being practical, we humans like to categorize everything to most simple things, rules of thumb. They work for awhile, but the problem is that sooner than later they become rules we follow and we never stop to think why we actually follow them.

The same thing happens in business. Let’s say you’re in the doughnuts business and you’re going up against the Krispy Kremes and Yum Yum Donuts of the world. How do you compete? Well if you’re Voodoo Doughnuts, you don’t compete by making the most delicious donuts, you compete by making the most fun donuts out there.

voodoo doughnuts


See the difference? All that’s needed is a shift in perspective to see opportunities for new offerings.

Imitation gets you nowhere

To create the most fun donuts you need a different set of skills than to create the most delicious one’s, and this is key because instead of imitating others, they’ve defined themselves differently than their competitors.

You will not find new growth opportunities by doing the same thing over and over again. If everyone in your industry defines themselves the same way you do then eventually everyone is shooting for the same thing and you’re in for a fight for a piece of the pie. Instead, define yourself by what you know, not what you do.

Know what business you’re in

Abilities change, technology changes, markets change, people change and so does your business need to change. Yet most businesses define themselves by what they do. It’s simple, but limiting in scope. For example, Starbucks doesn’t see itself as a coffee maker, it defines itself as providing relaxing space to work.

To be able to provide this they needed other abilities beyond just making coffee. So, they bundled them together around their core product. Put yourself in your customers shoes and think about the benefits you provide and not the product, this will help you better understand what business you’re really in.

Combine skills and assets for new value

Over the time your business has existed you have accumulated a portfolio of abilities and strengths. Think about these bundle of skills that you have accumulated over time, things that you are good at and that when combined provide new value to your customers.

Let’s play make-believe, Starbucks knows a little bit about interior design so let’s say they apply this skill to how they dress their employees. Imagine a scenario where Starbucks changes the clothing of their employees to look more casual and elegant and that this resonates with some customers, this simple experiment can give Starbucks an insight and a path to a new skill level where they might start selling these clothes to customers and next thing you know they have a new revenue stream. To modify your employee uniforms, consider using this custom foil screen printing services.

Ask yourself: What particular skills and assets have we accumulated over time that can be bundled together differently to provide new value to our customers?

Point: Stop looking at your company as a provider of specific products or services for specific markets, and start seeing it as a reservoir of skills and assets that can be exploited in different ways or different contexts to create new value.


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Also published on Medium.