As an entrepreneur, the temptation to compare your company to others can be irresistible. You look around and wonder if you’ve made the right choices, or if you’d be better off following industry trends.
But when business owners start making comparisons, it can end up feeling like they’ve done nothing more than make a list of things that need to change—ways in which they don’t measure up. But I think what they’ve come up with is actually a list of strengths…as long as they’re positioned the right way.
In American Express’s new podcast called Turning Points, business owners share valuable lessons on how they repositioned what they saw as weaknesses into winning advantages. Take heart and embrace your points of difference!
1. No one knows you.
Whether you’re a small or mid-size business, you’ll likely lose the name recognition game when you’re comparing yourself to the category leaders. The big guys own that mind space, and frankly, it may be difficult to wrest it from them.
So how can the lack of name recognition be an advantage? It can position you to serve a unique category in a unique way. Everyone knows the popular fast-food restaurants, but they probably don’t choose to go there when they’re looking for a memorable dining experience. Likewise, everyone recognizes big box stores, but that’s not their destination when shopping for handmade luxury goods. Celebrate your differences!
2. You lack the resources to grow.
I know first-hand how terrifying it can be to need cash. I’ve struggled to pay bills, and I’ve wrestled with wanting to achieve more and lacking the resources needed to make it happen.
But here’s what I’ve learned: Struggle can result in innovation. Being cash-poor can spur us to find a better way to manage our processes and expenses.
3. You’re new to the industry.
When you enter an industry as an outsider, prospective customers may be skeptical. But here’s the awesome thing: You can be the rule breaker, the one who sees a better way to do things by virtue of your outsider status. When you aren’t mired in old ways of thinking, you may be better positioned to develop a revolutionary solution.
4. High-priced, expert employees are out of your budget.
So you may not be able to hire people who are industry experts. You may think you’re at a disadvantage, but that’s not necessarily the case.
In some cases, hiring the right person with the right attitude and values can be every bit as valuable as looking for someone with an existing specific skill set. You can train someone in your process as long as they are a fit for your company’s culture. But trying to re-teach an old hand often isn’t as easy!
Yes, you may have to hire inexperienced people, but once they’re trained the right way, they may be every bit as valuable to you as an industry expert would be.
5. What you’re offering to customers isn’t exactly clear.
A caveat: This quality can be an advantage only for a brief period of time. When you start out, it’s ideal to start with a minimal concept and refine your offering as you listen to consumer feedback.
To be clear, I’m not talking about pivoting (moving your company in a direction that’s counter to your vision and values). I’m talking about aligning your offering to meet the needs of consumers in your niche.
6. A specialized product means a high-price point.
It’s normal to feel some anxiety if you do a market survey and discover that everyone else is cheaper than you are. But being more expensive isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Assuming you’re not losing customers over your pricing, being the top-drawer option can actually mean you’ve created a profitable business model. Specialists may be able to charge more money and turn a profit more easily than companies who fail to specialize.
7. Technology is not your biggest strength.
I know tons of business owners who fret about their inability to build their own websites or understand all the complex technological demands of their companies. While I could choose to do some of the IT work for my businesses, I don’t. And I don’t think you should worry about your tech shortcomings.
Why? Because you can hire people who know more than you do for a fraction of what it would cost you to try to absorb all the information. Consider paying a specialist to handle your company’s tech needs to free you up to do the big-picture work—the work that can be far more valuable to the future of your business.
So much of business success can be about attitude. We all have strengths and weaknesses, but it is the visionaries that learn to transform their shortcomings through creativity, innovation and determination.
For more business lessons, tune into Turning Points from American Express, a six-episode podcast series featuring candid conversations with business owners about the crucial moments that changed their companies forever—as well as practical advice on what it takes to improve and grow a business: www.americanexpress.com/podcast
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