Business Lessons I learned… from Karaoke #2

Don’t…ever, ever, ever sing a Whitney Houston song!

 You probably love Whitney, and you should, but don’t do it.  Resist the temptation to be Whitney for three and a half minutes.  You might sing well and everyone may tell you that you are a great singer BUT, you aren’t her. You never will be the affection of Kevin Costner let alone have the kind of dynamic range and power that Whitney displayed most of her career.  If you aspire to be someone else than go for it. But do you want fans to call you Little Whitney or do you want them saying your name? Do you want your business to be called Amazon Jr, Netflix 2.0, or Nordstroms Lite?

When I started singing I thought I wanted to be just like George Michael.  He had all the supermodels in his videos, the beard stubble, the cross earring and his songs seemingly appealed to pretty girls.  Therefore, I practiced all his songs in the car. I could request 90% of his greatest hits on Wednesday nights and remember the verse, chorus, inflections, and falsettos. I still love his jams and I sang them well but it never seemed to get me anywhere with girls, especially after his big reveal in the 90s. I was just a decent looking scruffy dude that could sing “Father Figure”, but never looked quite as good in faded, ripped jeans.  

The lesson is that although you can sing, you can’t be the greatest at singing “I Will Always Love You”.  Pick another song. And if you want to be the greatest business, don’t rest on the fact that you have the best return policy in big box retail, thanks Nordstroms.  If you want to make a great business, be the best in advertising, marketing, fulfillment, social media, service or product. Look at your competitors closely, understand what they do well, and pick another lane that you can be the best. 

This idea of being the best in your own lane is not mine but comes from popular business author, Jim Collins.  He wrote a book called Good to Great and in it he details case studies of companies that either succeeded or failed.  Much of his focus is on getting the right employees into company positions but he also speaks to finding out what your company does better than anybody else and leveraging that advantage.  For example, at one time Sears had the best and most robust shopping catalog so the company invested greatly in publishing and distributing their catalogs. If you want to be on top, find where you can be better than any of your competition and build your reputation around being the best at that one thing.    

I know I’m broadstroking items that could be segmented more. For example, your company doesn’t necessarily have to be the best in marketing in general but could be the best in marketing shoelaces to kids between 11 and 20 years old. Or your company could really excel at secure fulfillment of fragile electronic equipment, no one can do it better.  My company, Paymintz Merchant Services will provide the best customer service in credit card processing history. Because if I strived to be the 2nd best customer service company in my industry, people would first laugh, since historically this industry has been riddled with customer service issues, and then they would immediately forget my companies’ name. 

If you want to advertise for Apple, make a great music service that streams music straight to your smartphone.  If you want to be called Amazon, create a fulfillment service that delivers the next day. If you want to be called Little Whitney, by all means, sing your heart out to “I Will Always Love You”.  If you want to be a big time company, find a lane where you can be the best. Be the best first whenever possible but if not, just the best will do.