What This Comedian Turned NYT Best-selling Author Taught Me About Business
Content was originally published on Inc.com on May 28, 2019.
When it comes to business, entrepreneurs that challenge the status quo are the ones that break out from the pack. Having the ability to see the marketplace in a new and novel way will change the game. In the past, I have talked a lot about how mindset and thought exercises can help you look at your business in a different way and a few months ago I had the opportunity to talk with comedian turned NYT bestselling author, Andy Andrews about this very topic.
And what he had to share, blew me away.
Andrews will be the first one to admit that he’s an unlikely person to be hired on to do consults for large companies. Yet he has been doing it successfully for several years, so I had to dig a little deeper to find out why he was so successful.
Before he started writing books (Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer, The Little Things, etc.), Andy Andrews was a comedian, playing college campuses and touring with mega-stars like Joan Rivers, Garth Brooks, and Kenny Rogers. He then made the transition from making people laugh to writing books that changed how millions of people saw themselves in the business world. Which quickly turned into a lucrative consulting career. How did he do it? He cultivated his one superpower – the ability to see the world differently.
“I’ve always been a little bit funny,” Andrews shared with me. “I never really told jokes, I just shared observations about the world that were different from how most people saw the world, and that made people laugh.”
And this ability, to see the world differently from the masses, is a superpower that we as business leaders need to cultivate.
How Can You Compete in a Game Before Your Competition Even Knows the Game Has Started?
Within the first five minutes of talking to Andrews, I knew that he had a gift. When he posed this question to me, it really got me thinking about ways that I could build relationships with our target market further upstream from where we traditionally market. For my business coaching company that means doubling down on our content marketing strategy wherein we are building relationships with leaders and companies before they (or our competition) even know they are in the market for a business coaching company to help them scale.
Andrews shared the story of how in his local community, there is a car dealer ( “Mr. Joe”) who had sold Andrews’ son a car years before the other dealers in town even know that the race for his son’s business had even started.
“Mr. Joe has been such a presence in our community and in our family, there is literally no way when my son turned 16 he was going to by a car from anybody else. Mr. Joe had competed in a way for my son’s business before any other dealer in town even knew that they were competing.”
So it got me thinking. How could you start to win business from prospective clients before your competition even realizes that you’re out there stealing a march on them?
Or, how could you define your target market in a way that turns the “conventional” wisdom of your industry upside down?
Here are a few quick examples of coaching clients of my company who did just this and as a result, dominated a market niche:
- Conventional wisdom says, “How do we increase the value of our product and service in such a way we can increase our pricing and margins?” But a manufacturer we work with who makes control devices for industrial plants instead asked, “How can we make a version of our product that is so much less expensive and still has all the functionality of our current control devices?” They did this and grabbed a huge share of market, making it extremely difficult for competitors to even stay in the game with them since they provided so much value at such a low cost.
- Conventional wisdom says, “How can we find new customers?” But an outdoor advertising company we work with instead asked, “How can we double our business by investing our best energy in deepening our relationship with our existing top ten clients?” They brought in millions from the clients they already had.
- Conventional wisdom says, “How can I bill more hours in my professional practice?” But a senior partner at a regional law firm realized that he and his firm generated more profit by the work he staffed down to his paralegals and associate attorneys then he could have ever made by personally doing more legal work. So instead he asked himself, “How can I staff down more work and do it in a way that the quality, accuracy, and pace of the work product stays exceptionally high?” He increased his firm’s profitability by over $750,000 within 18 months.
My point is that when you harness your ability to see your business, your market, and the world around you differently, new opportunities appear that allow you to compete in ways that your competition can’t see until you’ve already surpassed them.
What is one thing in or about your business or industry that everyone sees in a certain way? What is the underlying assumption that the masses in your world make? What if that wasn’t always true? What would it look like if you flipped this assumption on its head? Play with this idea of challenging basic assumptions that everyone in your world “knows” to be true. This is the first step to growing your ability to see the world fresh and differently.