3 Keys to Becoming an Industry Authority

Here's some advice from entrepreneurial leaders who have bootstrapped million dollar businesses from scratch.
Founder, Passive Panda
March 21, 2012

I spent the last few weeks interviewing dozens of entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped million dollar businesses from scratch. These people have become authorities in industries ranging from aerospace to food products to interior design and everything in between. In many cases, these individuals became well-known in their industry within 12 months or less.

Think about that. Today you're an Average Joe or Jane that the average customer knows nothing about. A year later, you're seen as a leader in the industry and a go-to person in your space.

Sounds nice, right?

So how can you do the same? Among the entrepreneurs I interviewed, there were three common characteristics to becoming well-known in their space.

1. Authorities know what they are talking about

Every well-known entrepreneur I talked to knew their topic inside and out. Maybe they studied for years in school to learn their particular craft. Maybe they learned the industry for 10 years in a corporate role before branching out on their own. Maybe they spent the night hours studying their craft for a year before starting their business.

In some cases, there were years of experience behind their expertise. In others, it was simply a concentrated effort of a few months that made the difference. Either way, one thing is clear: to be an authority, you have to know what you're talking about.

2. Authorities focus on the process of promotion and not the result

Odds are, you would like your business to be well-known. You want the result of being known as an authority.

Interestingly enough, the people who typically are authorities don't focus on that result. They don't worry too much about being seen as a go-to person in their space. Instead, they are out on the streets, pounding the pavement, and networking like crazy. They are doing everything they can to spread their message. In short, they focus on the process of promotion and networking.

It's important to distinguish this as a process because it is on-going. Marketing and promoting your business is something that always needs to be done, not something that gets done.

When you focus on the process of promotion, the result of becoming an authority is simply a natural extension.

3. Authorities are consistent

Most of us are capable of putting together a good show every now and then. (Even I've had a shining moment here and there.) But the real challenge is to show up every day, contribute and create, and continue to push forward.

Authorities do that. Yes, they have a passion for what they do, which often helps drive them. But passion alone is not enough. The simple difference between the consistency of authorities and most people is that authorities decide.

Are they perfect? Of course not, but that doesn't stop them from trying to improve whenever possible.

The result is that authorities produce more great work than their counterparts (often, simply because they work more). In many ways, it's like the artist who creates every day.

Picasso was known for that. He was one of the most prolific artists of all time. Picasso created more than 13,500 paintings, 2,500 original prints, 1,000 ceramic artworks, 700 sculptures, and tens of thousands of drawings. He created at a pace that most mortals would deem impossible. And here's the key: most people have never heard of 99 percent of Picasso's works. The vast majority of those tens of thousands of pieces of art are forgettable. But every now and then, Picasso had a stroke of genius (literally, in his case).

That's the power of being consistent. Authorities have their shining moments, their flashes of brilliance. But those flashes are built upon a slow and steady fire that burns for years.

James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda. He is an award-winning writer on business strategy and entrepreneurship and has delivered speeches in the United States, the UK, and Switzerland.

Photo credit: iStockphoto