I’m all for dreaming. The impractical. Being unpopular. I hold no place in my heart for douchebags and think that if you’re going to run a business, you need to quit it with the whining. There are certain realities we all have to face as business owners. Today, it’s the fat lady belting out the Star Spangled Banner and I’m calling an end to some bullshit – and you’ve got Gary Vaynerchuck to thank for it.
Aside from being one of the only other human beings I’ve ever met who’s as comfortable with the f-bomb as I am when speaking in front of an audience, Gary’s got the knack for dropping mad knowledge in a way that makes it accessible. It’s the other A-word, and if you’re a marketing professional not tapping into the fundamentals of accessibility, you’re the A-word everyone usually thinks about. He was in Denver last night on his book tour for his book The Thank You Economy, and there was one line from his entire talk that made me send an email to myself so I wouldn’t forget:
“Execute in the reality of the marketplace.”
I’ll drop the Gary Vee fan girl ooze and instead, give him a hat tip for putting something so succinctly (read: accessible) that it inspired a Bitch Slap. (Holler, good sir!)
Today, you will kill the unicorns in your business.
Where are you doing business – Disneyland? Fucking Narnia? Is the case of your Macbook made of adamantium and are you followed around by a rat named Nicodemus? I doubt it. So why the hell are you managing your business like it’s a sanctuary for unicorns? I see it every day. Businesses clinging to rote ways, colleagues not wanting to acknowledge that there’s a morbidly obese woman in the background churning out a tune, a cliche brought to life while they haphazardly fumble with shit that will get them nowhere. Wishes and unicorns are great if you’re talking about a twelve-year-old girl’s birthday party, but they’re worth absolutely nothing for your business. And there’s this common misconception that unicorns feed on flowers and marshmallows, but they can only truly thrive on a diet of bullshit.
When you take the bullshit out of your business, you kill the unicorns.
So, let me throw out some ideas as to how you, too, can hunt this mythical creature that can only (given its diet) have horrific breath. The Business Unicorns must die, and you won’t even be subject to Go Daddy-like chastising for your sporting ways. Let’s get down to the reality of YOUR marketplace. This is a great conversation spin off from 19 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business. Killing unicorns? #20.
Unicorn #1: I just need to get caught-up.
How far behind are you? (really) Let’s cut the crap and lay it out: if you’re so busy that you’re not sleeping and feeling snowed under 25/8 (that’s beyond 24/7), there is no amount of “catching up” that’s going to help you get caught up. Working weekends and 16 hours a day isn’t facing reality. For fuck sake, hire someone. Delegate. Make less money, sleep more. You’re of no use to anyone until you can feel you can pay the right amount attention to the things and people who need, pay for and require your attention. And damn, did I learn this one the hard way. We owe it to ourselves to feel that we service each of our clients with the same fervor and attention to detail. On the other side of the coin, we owe it to our competition to slam the door on them so hard that there’s no way they could ever have an “in” because we service the everloving shit out of our clients. It’s possible to get caught up, but we need help in order to do it and stay on top of the pile on a regular basis. Beats the hell out of being trapped underneath it.
Unicorn #2: It worked for so-and-so.
You know what? You’re not so-and-so. You’re Bob. Or Jane. Or (gasp) Erika. I hear this from startups pitching all the time: Well, Facebook/Twitter/TwitPic (blah blah blah) did it. So can we! No, jackass – you can’t. Here’s what you’re missing: each company and person has its own unique ecosystem, comprised of circumstances, emotions and qualifications. In order to thrive in business, you have to operate in the realities of YOUR marketplace, not one you’ve bogarted from someone else. If Pepsi tried to pull a Moosejaw, how successful do you think they would be?
Think back to when you were in school (I know – it hurts me to think about when I was in school, too. FML.) and when you saw a classmate wearing or doing something cool. You went out and bought it or tried that thing and here’s what happened to me in that case: it looked like stir-fried ass on me or I fell on my face trying. It’s like Bobby from the Brady Bunch – pork chops and applesauce isn’t a business model. When you take the time to be honest with yourself about the market you want to dominate, you’re already 50% ahead of the other yahoos out there. Given that we’re our own worst critics, be your own naysayer so that when you’re asked, “What about _____?” you can respond with confidence (as opposed to arrogance) about what you’ve done to be different and why it matters. There will never be another Facebook, just like there will never be another Coca-Cola. It’ll be something else – and wouldn’t it be shit-howdy if it were YOU?
Unicorn #3: We have something for everyone.
Bullshit. Not even Walmart has something for everyone. Why the hell are you any different? I’ve covered this issue before, but it’s definitely a unicorn and bears mentioning once again (and again…and…). Your business has a style. A personality. You do some things really well. And others, quite frankly, not so much. Stop deluding yourself into thinking everyone is your customer and start listening to your favorite, most vocal ones. Why do they love you? Why do you love them? Take THAT and build a business model from it and stop trying to be Joe’s Mortuary and Fine Sausage Emporium. This is a unicorn that’s not unlike a tribble – they spontaneously regenerate and turn up everywhere. The only way to kill ’em for good is to build the one thing they hate the most: a solid business strategy.
And now, I pass the shotgun over to your side of the table. What unicorns will you kill today? And I don’t ask idly. Go ahead and leave a comment for me and next week (sometime), I’ll pick one of the unicorns you offer up to win a signed copy of Gary V’s The Thank You Economy. Tell me what’s getting strapped to the roof rack of your Range Rover on your business safari.
You’ve been slapped.