Harnessing the Power of the Superlative

You can't settle for second place when it comes to setting your business apart.
Author, Profit First
May 22, 2012

I am fired up for this summer's Olympics. I can't wait to see Michael Phelps cranking away in the pool and bringing home more gold medals. I am fired up to watch Usain Bolt outrun cheetahs. The combined talent of all Olympic athletes is mind-blowing. But there is one problem: I remember only the athletes who win gold. You know, the ones who are the best.

Of course, I am not alone on this. We all remember the best. We love the best. We reward the best with millions of sponsorship dollars, the covers of magazines and Wheaties boxes. The other contenders? They are forgotten. Every. Single. One.

In some ways, this is depressing. The countless numbers of amazing athletes who could destroy me (or you) in a sprint or swim or shot put or anything athletic are forgotten within weeks of the Olympics if they don't win gold. But when you look deeper, there is a great business lesson here for all of us.

Sometimes, certain athletes lose the race but are still remembered. How about the Jamaican bobsled team, for example? They lost (badly). Yet they stayed “first place” in our mind. And, they did it by using the rule of the suffix "-est."

This is how it works: Simply put the letters “-est” at the end of the adjective that describes what makes your company different from your competition. Once you embody that superlative, you win. People notice and remember the "-ests." The Olympics happens to have the fastest runner, strongest woman, highest jumper, sharpest shooter, and so on. Whoever has the "-est" wins the gold.

In your industry, the "-est" wins, too. But the nice thing is that there can be many, many "-ests." There can be dozens or even hundreds.

A restaurant can have the fastest service. Another the slowest. One can serve the weirdest food. And yet another serves the hottest. The coldest. The strongest tasting. The mildest. The smelliest. The strangest. The largest servings. The smallest servings. It goes on and on.

A speaker manufacturer can have the largest speaker, another the loudest, and yet another the smallest. They all are winners, because they are all distinct.

Conversely if you have a speaker business and you have almost the smallest, but not the smallest (in other words you are smaller then most, but not all), you lose. Your business wins when you are the "-est."

The good news is you can win countless ways in any industry. But you don't get there by just trying to compete. You get there by picking a category and being the "-est."

There are two ways to beat Michael Phelps. One is to swim faster, thus making you the fastest. The other is to make a new "-est." Perhaps a competitor should cannonball into the pool instead of diving. That will surely be the weirdest start to an Olympic swimming race ever. And that person is sure to win tons of media attention and exposure. The "-est" gets noticed.

Want proof? The Jamaican bobsled team did it, by being the craziest. While they lost in the Olympics, they won in the hearts and minds of people. Not to mention they won a feature length movie (Cool Runnings), too. The "-est" always gets noticed and is never forgotten.

What is your "-est"?

Mike Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He is the founder of three multimillion-dollar companies, is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is a founder of Provendus Group a consultancy that helps companies whose growth has plateaued. You can read his blog by visiting his website


Author, Profit First