In this era of technology-fueled innovation, it's easier to beat your competition. Becoming a business cherished by your customers no longer requires massive marketing budgets or strategic plans devised by employees with MBAs. Technology is the great equalizer.
Yet, successfully scaling the lower barriers of entry still requires a product or service that solves the customers' problem, known or otherwise. Honing in on the problem takes leadership and management acumen. Less obvious, it also requires a rebellious set of beliefs.
Business rebels are those who don't believe in sustaining the status quo or expecting big gains from minimally tweaking a product or service. Modesty doesn't matter much to a business rebel. Rebels read the market and respond in ways that undermine convention. They pay close attention to what's needed and pay less attention to the obvious wants of customers. (Think Steve Jobs and the creation of the iPhone. Customers didn't know they needed it until he created it.)
It's not easy being a business rebel. It's fraught with doubt, adversity, and conflict. That's just for starters. However, fortune favors the bold. Bold actions that surprise and delight require that you examine what you believe to be true and false. The business rebels who aim to disrupt their competition must master the art of self-examination--the evaluation of how your behaviors affect others and what motivates you to be and do your best.
Ari Weinzweig, CEO of Zingerman's, stated in his latest book, The Power of Beliefs in Business, "Crafting a business with beauty and elegance takes patience and persistence." So it is with examining your beliefs; What lies below their obvious guidance is a bounty of new insights. Those insights, however, are only available to those with "patience and persistence."
I recently interviewed New York Times bestselling author and award-winning historian S.C. Gwynne and discussed the business themes in his latest book, The Perfect Pass. It was during our conversation that I realized the football coaches he writes about, Hal Mumme and Mike Leach, serve as excellent models for modern business rebels.
Mumme and Leach were "anti-authority," according to Gwynne. Together, the two coaches changed football from a "run-dominated sport to a pass-dominated one" that is still played in college and professional football today. As Gwynne explained, the key ingredient to Mumme and Leach's success was that "they didn't believe in the established beliefs."
Business Rebel Beliefs
In discussing the beliefs held by Mumme and Leach that led to their success, Gwynne was able to explain their rebellious nature. These beliefs played a central role in their success. They can also serve as insights for you.
1. Play Simple. A winning team doesn't necessarily rely on complicated "plays" or on the quantity of them. Instead, insist on keeping your playbook simple. Simplicity is memorable.
2. Redefine Boundaries. Don't accept the conditions in which you work as a given. If you need to move the lines on the playing field, then do it.
3. Redefine Expectations. Evaluate the "rules" that everyone follows and find leverage points to pivot away from tradition and create new expectations.
4. Believe in Greatness. No matter your track record or the obstacles in your way believe that great outcomes are possible. People perform to the expectation levels you set.
5. Look to the Past to Change the Future. While rebels defy conventional wisdom, they also study the past to learn trends and patterns that can change the future.
6. Be Persistent. Steadfast in their resolve, rebels internalize their purpose. This helps them to stay persistent despite the temptation to back down or dial back their ambition.
7. Believe in People. A business is nothing without the commitment and resolve of its people. Invest heavily in your talent.
In business, it's common to look for ways to out-compete your competition. There is, however, greater opportunity in examining what you believe. Learn to question why something is "the way it is." Uncover better solutions that solve your customers' pain points. It's not an obvious business play to examine your beliefs to identify ways to win. This is what makes it the ultimate opportunity maker.