“Work smarter, not harder.”
This is, in my opinion, bullsh*t.
Well, maybe not bullsh*t — but it certainly falls short when you’re a startup entrepreneur.
Especially when you are the little guy, the underdog, the longshot or one of those scrappy startups working in mature markets with little funding — or possibly no funding.
At that point, it’s all about disrupting the status quo.
It’s about being so disruptive that the big guy cannot or does not adapt fast enough to knock you out of the game. Disruption requires not only working smarter but you have to work harder, faster and often in a way so outside of the box that the established competition doesn’t see you as a threat.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t see an opportunity for massive disruption in your existing or desired space, you can still create a competitive advantage through minor disruption. But hey, where’s the fun in that?
How can you become more disruptive and challenge the status quo in your industry? So glad you asked.
1. Begin with asking why.
Don’t just think better… think differently.
“Well, that’s just the way we’ve always done it” is a great place to begin your overhaul. Asking why repeatedly will lead you to a reason for an action. If the “why” is weak, you are onto something.
Searching outside of your industry or even outside of your country offers insight into how others are thinking differently about the same challenges.
Take the Moderation Institute. This business is taking a disruptive approach to treating alcohol and process addictions (e.g. gambling, overeating, pornography and video games). Participants can choose moderation or abstinence, and the program is based on a medication-supported approach used in Europe for more than 20 years.
The Sinclair Method is praised for its impressive success rates, yet it is virtually unknown in the United States. The U.S. treatment industry’s seemingly cult-like reliance on 12-step based programming developed in the 1930s, and it’s notoriously low success rates created a space ripe for disruption.
“After witnessing so many people failing to find success in traditional treatment, I felt obligated to explore other approaches,” says the institute’s founder, Dr. Michael Yasinski. “This lead me to utilize the Sinclair Method in combination with other strategic elements to develop our unique and highly-effective approach.”
2. Be transparent and vulnerable.
Consumers of all types are fed up with being “sold” on a product or service.
Thanks to the internet, consumers are savvier than ever. Presenting your brand with the confidence to be honest with your customers — quirks and all — will gain you instant credibility and trust with your audience.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to share some of your deficits, humans can’t help but trust and connect with companies willing to present themselves in an authentic way.
When it comes to being transparent and vulnerable, Hustle & Deal Flow™ does just that. It’s an online publication that features the stories of talented people, creatives, entrepreneurs and inspiring/rising growth (or high growth) brands. H&DF aims to bring out the vulnerable side these people and businesses so readers can attempt to relate to what goes into these side hustles and full time jobs.
“We don’t sell the dream, we document the hustle. It’s all about transparency,” says Matt Gottesman, H&DF’s founder and editor-in-chief. “There’s always too much glamorization and glorification in ‘end success’, and you see it in media all the time. We wanted to disrupt that space and give more attention to people who you may not have heard of from a mainstream perspective, but are popular within their niche. Their hustle demonstrates raw, authentic and real experiences that are happening to them in real time. This causes significantly higher engagement to our media because of it.”
3. Think customer versus competition.
Always focus on the user’s needs.
Determine your customer’s needs and desires by building a strong relationship. Avoid communicating with a buyer only to thank them for his or her business, or even worse, not communicating at all. Connect often, and not just when you need something.
Deliver value by offering free resources on a regular basis. Here are just two examples: “10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your New Product” or “Free Gratitude Event for Our Customers”. This kind of generosity not only keeps you at the front of people’s of mind, but also increases response rates and quality when gathering feedback.
This type of two-way communication also allows for rapid pivoting and the ability to avoid a flop altogether (more on that later).
Many will argue that the customer doesn’t always know what he or she wants or needs. This is true. However, you have to first truly understand his or her current needs and wants in order to deliver something innovative that he or she will find valuable.
Surveying your customers and potential customers could easily be the fastest way to change the trajectory of your business overnight.
“The pharmaceutical companies see patients as customers,” says Kolby Kolibas, founder of The Healthly Primate. “Customers equal dollar signs. This is how the industry traditionally operates. Treat just the symptoms and keep people coming back for more. At Healthy Primate, we see people as family. This family is a community. That community is something we take very seriously. Our all natural stress supplement was designed based on the needs of that community. Now we can’t make it fast enough.”
4. Pivot rapidly.
Test, test and then test again.
Challenging the “norm” isn’t without its pitfalls. Even the best ideas can come too soon, and the market may not be ready to accept the innovation. Keep trying.
Your agility can be one of your greatest strengths. Established market leaders take much longer to pivot — use this to your advantage.
5. Be bold and brave.
Going after an industry’s most firmly held beliefs does not come without pushback.
Your willingness to speak out against these principles immediately sets you apart and provides the opportunity to present other new ideas you are bringing to the field.
Rich Legacy (formerly Both Sides of the Kitchen Table) is focusing on helping high-performing families empower their children to face the evolving challenges of a digital age. Rich Legacy does this through workshops, video programs and family consulting.
What’s disruptive about that? The founders are not parents themselves.
In a field where every book, program, workshop, etc. is developed by a parent, Rich Legacy received A LOT of initial pushback.
“We knew we had to stay true to our beliefs. One of the main reasons for the high rate of self-destructive behaviors within these families comes from a lack of understanding when it came to the child’s perspective. Had we caved, so many families we have been able create dramatic transformation and healing for would of potentially gone without help. Our challenge to the status quo was essential to being disruptive in a crowded space while remaining true to ourselves,” says Gordie Bufton, one of Rich Legacy’s founders.
As a result, the company is quickly gaining traction and delivering its workshops and consulting in a growing list of countries from around the world.
The more disruptive you can be, the more advantages you can create for your business.
Being disruptive can be scary. It is not for everyone.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time by Theodore Roosevelt in hopes of inspiring you to challenge the status quo:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasm, the devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”