Leading without competing

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not in a dream. Today I had such a great time with an interview for an upcoming episode of Business Matters. This episode, which we will air at the end of next week, is about GREAT small businesses. You may not know it, but small businesses represent over 1/2 of our economic output. Pretty amazing…

coffee-house-largeToday’s interview was with Jon Cates of Broadway Cafe in Kansas City. I won’t give the whole story away (otherwise why would you want to listen to the radio program?) but i will say a bit about why I was so excited about our conversation.

I think one of the defining myths of capitalism is that if you don’t focus on the competition you will not succeed. I have thought about that a lot over the past few years. It has seemed to me that this approach often is both distracting and does not produce the results expected. It seems to me that the best and most sustainable approach is a commitment to be the best at what you do so that your customers will never consider going anywhere else.

This simple statement of being your best requires that you give it all you have. It isn’t a half-hearted kind of thing. I find that most of the corporate clients I work with have a strong sense of winning over someone else; fighting the competitors and so on. Yet there is too little attention put on being the best. Being the best is both a personal commitment and also includes the actions that both confirm that commitment and inspire those around me. Each day everyone in the organization creates a customer experience that is better than the one from yesterday.

A tall order, however, when it is the unwavering focus of the leaders amazing things happen.

imagesWhat brought Jon to my attention was a story that one of our producers told me about how Jon’s establishment thrived even when a Starbucks opened up close by. How is this possible? It wasn’t by reshaping their approach to “compete” with Starbucks. It wasn’t by a new marketing plan (they don’t spend any money on advertising). It was by simply doing better what they already did and not put any attention on what Starbucks was doing.

I can’t wait to share the story with you next week.

Until later,


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