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Beyond the "Why" to "For Whom"

Simon Sinek made famous the notion in his book, "Start with Why."

His point was that for your company to make the biggest impact you need to go beyond what you do and how you do it, to understand why you do it. It's an exploration what drives your passions that starts in childhood and then gets buried along the way. Uncover it and then focus on what you truly love doing and surround yourself with people who truly love doing it too and you'll be amazed at the results.

We are in violent agreement but think you need to take it one step further, giving equal value to "for whom" you do it.

We're in the midst of a huge, silent business transformation that started in the early 2000s and will probably go on into the 2030s when we'll be able to look back on how business was done in the 80s and 90s in contrast to how it is done and marvel at the number of industry giants that never saw the change coming or were so arrogant they felt it wouldn't affect them.

In a study last year, the MIT Executive Summit suggested that during the next 10 years, 40% of all existing companies, including current and former industry leaders will cease to exist as we know them. Some will fail outright and disappear, others will be acquired and shattered with pieces matched with those of other acquired companies to form entirely new entities. The study cited the failure of these dinosaurs to embrace operational technology soon enough and when they find themselves being past by faster and more nimble companies they will have no time nor the means to respond.

What the study fails to include about these dying companies is how their lack of response to the impact technology (specifically the internet) is having on the expectations and demands of their customers will be equally damning. Operating like it's 1999 makes you about as relevant as __________________________.

So on the surface, this looks like as tremendous opportunity for the 6.5 million new companies that launch over any recent 10-year period. They should be primed to fill the void; right? The problem is that 6 million of them won't last a decade and half will fail within their first three years. Why?

No doubt some are just bad ideas poorly executed but a million or more could survive, even thrive if they would just do one thing: stop following conventional wisdom and start thinking like the innovators they are.

"One Size Fits All," fits no one.

Over the years, we've talked to hundreds of CEOs of young companies and it's remarkable how similar they are in how they think, operate and market their business no matter the category.

They all understand and endorse the notion of, "Putting a stake in the ground, standing for something and focusing on a defined target audience." They all simply claim to be the exception to that rule.

"Our products are so good and our people so talented that we really can do anything any prospect might want. Virtually anyone can use what we do." And they smile, lean back in their chairs and wait for the gushing praise.

The fact is, they are afraid. They fear defining who and what they are. They believe they stand alone but when you mention that a competitor has a specialty, they immediately say, "We can do that too."

When you mention that each of their competitors makes the exact same claims, they say, "Yeah but we really can do it." And they remain unfazed when you tell them that every competitor says that too.

But here's the headline: One size fits all, fits no one.

Technology has given all of us the ability look beyond the three of four options presented to us at retail and source exactly what we want; products and services that perfectly address our specific set of needs and they will arrive at our door within 3 to 24 hours. And if such a product doesn't exist, it will tomorrow which means it's 48 hours away.

In order to stay ahead of the game and give your company a fighting chance to reach your potential, you can't play the universal solution card. It will increasingly cost you the game.

To deliver on the wants and needs of your audience going forward, you must define that audience as the one specific segment that most closely aligns with who you are, what you do, how and why you do it. It's the one segment that see real value in your vision and shares your values and beliefs.

To succeed, you must stop playing the prevent defense; back peddling with arms stretched out wide to keep any opportunity, real or not, from slipping by. Instead, you need to think offensively, with your entire focus on attracting, engaging and inspiring that one audience you commit your company to serve.

For us, it's leaders of innovative, emerging companies committed to reaching their full potential and change the world for the better.

We agree that innovation makes us better and inspires us to keep reaching higher. It excites us to imagine the possibilities and our commitment it to helping like-minded companies get there.

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