Finding Your Bell!

image005As I’ve written before in my blogs, and adapting some wise words from Arnold Palmer, “business is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” If your revenue is higher than your costs then you make money, simple. But how do you continue to do this in a world that’s full of competition, whilst improving what you do, keeping your team, and having fun whilst doing it all? It’s tough when we know people have a tendency to jump from company to company, services are being offered cheaper by competition and driven down by the market whilst costs are rising. It can be a very tough equation to figure out, especially when we live in a world that’s so fast paced.

So how do we achieve success in the business world? Personally, once again the answer is deceptively simple in theory but bloody difficult to execute.

First, as with my whole philosophy of business and leadership comes the people. The people I work with are the key to any success. Surrounding myself with people who are ambitious, fun and driven to try new things is critical, in short people who share similar values to me. That goes for both my team and the people I report to!

Second, is defining a service that is ahead of the competition. There are lots of companies that are average and even good, but in my opinion to be a ‘great’ business they come in 3 forms:

  • Be Great – Be so damn great at what you do that there is clear blue water between you and your competition. Surround yourself with the best people, people who believe in what the business is trying to achieve and in how it goes about achieving it. When done right the quality of your service and your brand sells itself, meaning clients just keep coming back for more.
  • Find Your Bell – Be ahead of your competitors with new thinking, better thinking and smarter solutions. Providing and offering what others have not and cannot even suggest. This takes courage from the business, but also a leap of faith from your clients, as there may be no hard evidence that what you’re offering actually works better than traditional solutions. I call this ‘Finding Your Bell’. A great analogy to finding your bell is in the TED talk, Architecture for the people by the people. In the talk Alastair, an architect, uses an example of a project his business was asked to look at. A school approached him to redesign it as students were struggling to move through the school effectively due to the old narrow Victorian corridors during break periods. The Client was asking them to redesign the school with new classrooms and new corridors so that the students could move better, their budget was £20m. After researching the project and studying how the kids moved through the school, Alastair’s business came to the conclusion that they did not have to spend £20m, they just needed more school bells and a clock! Staggering the time classes ended at break times, using different bells in different parts of the school, they could control the flow of the kids through the corridors. A simple bell solution was the answer, and it was the right answer.
  • The Purple Cow – By totally disrupting an industry and offering something that has not even been conceived before, let alone delivered. The Purple Cow puts you so far ahead of the competition that there is no competition! There is a very famous and brilliant book I read many years ago called The Purple Cow by Seth Godin. I highly recommend you read it. It talks about transforming your business by being remarkable. It states that the key to success is to find a way to stand out, to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome cows. In my experience there are very few purple cows and when they do appear there is a swath of competition trying to catch up with their own version, over time this tends floods the market and turns all the cows’ monochrome again!!

Every company in every industry will be trying to do at least one of the above, if not all of them. Each of the above bring their own challenges to differing degrees. To ‘Be ‘Great’ and gain your clients trust takes time, effort and hard work, and is usually a long term commitment. To ‘Find Your Bell’ takes understanding and research in figuring out what clients really need, not necessarily what they want! To find your ‘Purple Cow’ takes research, understanding, a spark of genius and real entrepreneurial spirit. It also takes balls the size of coconuts, as you will be ridiculed and mocked, which always happens, as most people take time to catch up until a tipping point occurs and then they’ll tell you they believed in you all the time!!.

I’ve had the above views on business for a few years now. But recently I’ve come to understand another element that is key, especially with Finding you Bell and the Purple Cow. You need good solid research. In a world that is changing very fast, where everyone and their dog has an opinion and calls themselves an expert, where social media can cause an idea to go viral, even if it’s a crap idea, solid research backs up hunches with data, informing people of what’s really going on and uncovering issues in a fast paced world that we may have not experienced before. The results of this research gives great companies the opportunity to explore new solutions, maybe solutions clients don’t know they actually need. Just like Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

Once again that’s easier said than done. First you need to know what questions to ask and how best to collate the information, and second you need to know how to interpret the information correctly to give you the right answer.

All of this also brings us back to the key point of a great business, its people! The right people that bring their thinking, ideas, strategies, research and personalities to deliver amazing results, both internally and externally. Isn’t that why most of us get up and go to work, to get involved with exciting, challenging ideas that fulfil our needs and allows us to work with other great people?

So go out there, be great and find your bell. You never know, you might just discover a purple cow!!

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