How to Change the Race; and Win

I was watching the Olympics last night. The Women’s 200M Breaststroke semi-finals were on. 8 women were swimming. Each from a different country, with a different coach, and a different training plan.

Each one of them had spent at least the last 4 years getting ready for this event. More likely, they had spent their entire lives getting ready for this single Olympic event.

What amazed me the most about this race was the fact that all 8 finishers in the 200M breaststroke finished within one second of the winner. So, the difference between 1st and last place was about .7%. (that’s point seven percent!)

I find that shocking. That is an amazingly small difference in performance across these athletes. After 4 years of non-stop effort, it came down the smallest difference in performance.

Then I started thinking about some of the business leaders I’ve work with.

“Business Leader A” is obsessed with their competition. Always looking over their shoulder, wondering what the “other guy” is going to do.

On the other hand, “Business Leader B” hardly ever mentions the competition. While they are aware of the competition and interested in what they are up to, it doesn’t cause them much concern or stress.

This race brought into clear focus the difference between these two types of business owners.

Business Leader A is racing the 200M Breaststroke. They are in head to head competition in a race that only has one winner. They know it’s going to be tight race and any mistake or misstep is disastrous.

Business Leader B has a totally different perspective. When the race for the 200M Breaststroke starts, they just jump in the pool and swim Freestyle. They realize that they can totally change the rules of the race and win without breaking a sweat.

How does this come to life in the day to day of their businesses?

Business Leader A is always price matching, mimicking the marketing of the competition, battling it out for the same customer base and struggling to create incremental value in order to stay inches ahead of the pack.

Their team feels panicked and under pressure to avoid mistakes, avoid losses and win every little battle.

Business Leader B is innovating, thinking outside the box, creating real relationships with their community and discovering how they can help their customer bases in ways that no one has even thought of.

Their team feels empowered to create new solutions, experiment, take the time to connect with customers and find ways to change the entire market.

You don’t have to think very hard to recognize the businesses in the world who are being led by “Business Leader B”. Uber, Airbnb, Apple, Amazon and Tesla to name a few. They are disrupting their industries by changing the rules and serving customers in brand new ways.

You don’t have to be a big industry changing player to change the race. There are dozens of smaller companies in every community who are changing the rules of the game.

I have a friend who started a mobile bike shop. He knows that many cyclists simply don’t have the time to get to the local bike shop. So he changed the rules and brings the bike shop to you. This business model is a simple, low overhead solution that saves his clients time and the hassle of hauling their bike to and from the bike shop. 

Who is changing the world in your neighborhood? Who is taking a new approach to serve your community in a unique way? Why can’t it be you?

Everyday, we get the chance to decide how we are gong lead. Which type of business leader are you going to be today?


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