Entrepreneurs think of themselves as "rule-breakers" but even seasoned business owners can find themselves falling under the spell of conventional wisdom. "It's not done that way" or "it's never been done that way" can be common fallbacks for anyone who comes up through an industry.
On October 19th, we invited two Inc. 5000 CEOs who have found great success by breaking rules in their own respective fields to share their experiences. We begin with a word of warning: the easiest thing to say about a rule-breaker in any industry is "that won't work in my industry." Maybe so, but be aware that our two presenters heard that plenty of times along the way as well.
Eric Albee of Bensalem, PA-based Aromatic Fusion, had a simple, but profound idea. What if he sold products to the clients of his clients? Albee was aware of opportunities to create, manufacture and sell products to his clients' clients that were, for a variety of reasons, not valued by his biggest customers. During our session, Albee walked through the process of introducing the idea to his large clients and the rules he set in place to sell products to his clients as well as his clients' clients.
The following challenge was put to the attendees: who are your clients' clients? How can you serve them? And how can you navigate the obstacles that such a strategy creates?
Our second presenter was George Bresler of B2B collections firm, GB Collects. Bresler's industry is known for its hard edge. "Most collections companies are in the revenge business," says Bresler. "At GB Collects, we pride ourselves on two things: great customer service for both clients and our clients debtors and helping our clients maintain good relations with their debtors so our clients can choose for themselves if they want to do business with them again"
At the core, Bresler made the decision to become a collections business that specialized in "customer intimacy," something that's not common to his industry. But it wasn't just lip service. His firm spends a lot more on customer service than his peers and he charges his clients more, too.
Our challenge to attendees: where can you move your business in order to differentiate yourself from your competitors, one for which you will be able to charge a premium?
LEWIS SCHIFF is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.
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