General contractor holding blueprints for her building

Perception vs. Reality

The following is an email that was sent to me from our CEO, Marc Lebel.  I thought that it was an interesting message about interpreting “common beliefs” for yourself.  I hope that everyone takes something positive from this message and applies it to themselves at some point this year.

I recently traveled to an area that is not considered by many as the most desirable holiday location.  There are parts of this country that are full of crime and considered highly dangerous and because of this I had avoided (this country) in the past.  But I discovered what so many other tourists have experienced – the long sandy beaches, the picturesque mountains, the extraordinary safaris, and the beautiful vineyards.  If I had stayed away from this country because of the widely accepted belief that this is “not a safe place to visit” then I would not have the fantastic memories that I do today.  This made me think that we need not always accept popular opinion and we need to think for ourselves.

Success Comes to Those Who Think Differently

In life, as in business, too many people cling to misconceptions that hold them back and inhibit their chances for success and happiness. Consider the words of Steve Jobs in Apple’s “Think Different” commercial: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”.  This is not just an advertisement; it is the backbone of the Apple business model to which no one can argue that it has not worked!

Creativity, Focus and Executing Effectively Through Different Thinking

So how do you think differently?  Let us start off by identifying some of the most “common beliefs” you should reject:

1. People are primarily motivated by money

All too often, business leaders think that the main concern of their customers and employees is money.  This is probably because money is a central concern in business so leaders become obsessed with its importance.

Over the past couple of years specifically I have realized that humans are emotional creatures and we crave purpose and value.  Employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to feel as though they are part of something… part of a team!

Customers take price into consideration but they also pay attention to quality and convenience.  By thinking that money is the most important motivator, business leaders forget to build a more talented team and connect with customers on a more personal (even deeper) level.

2. The best dressed is the most successful

Putting up a fancy front has an undeniable attraction.  How can a business be taken seriously unless it has a trendy office, slick marketing collateral, and a presence at all the major events and trade shows?  The truth is that focusing on “fluff” can take your mind away from the more important matters at hand; namely creating an efficient structure, culture, and platform that allow all to share information and knowledge.  I would venture to guess that this misguided diversion of focus is the cause of many business failures.  The reality is that the best dressed is just that: the best dressed – period.

Success in business is about identifying opportunities, continually innovating, creating compelling value propositions, executing effectively and efficiently, and developing long term strategic competitive advantages.

3. Do not enter a market where there is competition

This adage can be compared to being the skier who insists on hitting only the slopes with fresh powder or veering off the trails to ensure there are no other skiers on the same run.  These are always the first skiers to fly off of cliffs or find themselves buried by an avalanche.  Going into uncharted markets can involve a lot of expense and risk.  You may end up spending a lot of time and money “educating the customer” and perhaps you will find that your idea was a bad one from the being.  Thinking practically though if you enter a market that is rife with competition it actually validates your business model.  Your goal should not be to avoid competition but to outperform it!

4. We should do what our competitors are doing

Leaders cling to this misconception; especially when the competitor has a higher profile or is well established.  The truth is that if a competitor is well established it may mean the operators have more money to burn and they will inevitably find extraordinarily ineffective ways to burn it.  Yet people still feel the need to follow their lead.

I say – forget the competition!

The key is to assess your core assets and consider how you can leverage them to seize an advantage.  When you do study the competition you should be looking at what they are doing so you can do something entirely different (and lead the industry).  If you want to stand out from the competition then challenge every notion you have, colour outside the lines, and as Steve Jobs said – “think different”.

These “common beliefs” are misconceptions that in the end are simply shortcuts.  People love shortcuts but success comes to those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work.  Anyone can copy competitors but the standouts put in the effort to come up with innovative new strategies.

Thomas Edison said – “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”.  In closing, I think that the best way to summarize what I am saying is that mediocrity comes to those who stay within the boundaries and in turn mediocrity in business is a recipe for failure.