Why You Shouldn't Follow the Rules

Successful entrepreneurs know that breaking these non-existent rules is in fact the key to success.
Author, Profit First
March 23, 2012

We live with so many rules and laws that we start to believe there are rules for everything. Rules are everywhere: in sports, buried in unspoken politics, guidelines. All these involve rules.

As a result, many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of believing that their industry has rules that can’t be broken. They believe that their industry works the way it does because of rules.

They're wrong. Successful entrepreneurs know that breaking these non-existent rules is in fact the key to success.

Case in point: Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams, better known as Red & Black are breaking the established rules of book publishing and marketing.

Red & Black set out to bust every rule that publishers and authors play by. They created a way to publish that is making their brand stand out. Big time.

After choosing the route of self-publishing, Red & Black skipped the book-distribution juggernauts of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Instead, they used RR Donnelley to print and distribute the book. (They did it in 2009. Harper Collins announced a similar arrangement in 2011.)

To establish instant credibility, they struck a deal with Neiman Marcus. Crazy, right? Crazy like a fox. Neiman Marcus, which really doesn’t sell books, launched theirs.

And now their book, What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired! was getting lots of attention. The book in the hands of mannequins in the window didn’t hurt either.

Instead of cold-calling, or e-mailing key influencers who could provide critical guidance, Red & Black wrote one-off press releases. A clever “dummy” press release using their father’s original last name (Weinberg), attempted to get the attention of Bob Weinstein: “Weinberg Sisters Want to Meet Weinstein Brothers.” Guess what? They did.

When they were asked to develop and teach a financial literacy program for KIPP Houston High School, they stopped all marketing. Now their book is a state-approved textbook. They'll have book sales for years to come. Genius.

So, what’s the lesson? Think backward. To find where the opportunities are, watch what others are doing and what they are not doing. Next, evaluate your objectives and goals, and figure out your strategy backward.

Start at the end, work your way back and leverage every opportunity that the “rule followers” are not following.

Pulling this off requires one key ingredient. When I asked Black, “What is the key to executing a rule-breaking strategy?” She responded, “Chutzpah.“

Breaking rules where rules actually exist gets you nowhere. But where rules don’t exist, your commitment to break the rules is exactly what brings you success.

Get out there and break the rules. And don’t forget to bring your chutzpah. You’ll need lots of it.

Photo credit: Mandy Williams

Author, Profit First