The Lion, the Shoemaker & the Football Coach
What do all these have in common? There is a link, and it’s a massively important one for all businesses looking to thrive and not just survive.
Let’s look at each one and put the pieces together.
Starting with the Lion…
Throughout the nineties, I would travel to South Africa for our annual business planning meetings.
It was a ten-day schedule with the first few days spent in a boardroom and the remaining ones on safari – the classic team bonding stuff.
Now, if you’ve never been on a safari before, you should add it to your bucket list; being in the backyard of the Big Five and their ecosystem is awe-inspiring.
Our day would start at sunup and end at sundown. We would spend the day in a convoy of game vehicles seeking the elusive Big Five. The pattern is generally to drive somewhere, get out, eat and drink, photograph the scene, get a radio message, and jump into the wagon searching for the latest sighting.
After a few days of seeing elephants, giraffes, buffalo, wild dogs, and all manner of herds, we get THE call; a pride of lions has been spotted, and we are off.
We arrive at our destination and are advised to be still, STAY in the transport as the lions can only see the vehicle as another animal and not see humans in it.
We can see the pride approaching from the East; around ten of them.
We’ve sat about twenty metres away from them, and they about twenty metres: hidden away from a herd of antelope. The cubs and the male lions hold back and sleep in the sun. A few of the lionesses slowly move towards the herd then crouched in a prone position
The herd carries on grazing and looking around, and the lionesses just watch and watch and watch.
And then BANG they’re off…. and we learned a precious business lesson…
Now let’s go onto the Shoemaker and talk about Steve Madden.
Who?! The billion-dollar shoe company; made more famous by its inclusion in the Blockbuster film ‘ The Wolf of Wall Street’.
They had a unique way of identifying the seasons’ must-buy fashion.
It went something like this: three or four display shops set up in New York, Los Angeles, etc. Each store displaying twenty different designs of shoes. But here is the brilliant part; only ONE pair each in ONE colour and ONE size…
So, onto the last of my three examples, The Football Coach, Liverpool’s charismatic manager Jurgen Norbert Klopp.
Before each game, the teams emerge onto the football pitch and conduct various warm-ups.
All managers tend to mingle and focus on their players. Apart from one…Herr Klopp.
For five years now, commentators and fans have wondered why Jurgen stands on the halfway line and focuses, not on HIS players, but on the opposition players. He will stand in one spot and focus on what they are doing and take it all in.
So, what have Klopp, Madden, and Elsa (you have to be of a certain age for this reference) aka the Lion all got in common, and what are they really doing?
The answer is a form of natural selection.
They are all looking for something to stand out. It’s either the weakest or the strongest. All three know that focusing on the masses will not produce the right result, and they are looking for that one clue.
For the Lioness, she is looking for the one antelope that is lame and will not outrun her; easier to catch for her family feast. As she launches and scatters the herd; that one is her 100% focus. The time watching and learning put to great use.
The Shoemaker is looking for those designs, colours, and sizes that get requested more than others. Most companies’ mass-market failures and then lose money on them. Steve Madden wanted to only mass-market winners, which would become the season’s big sellers.
And for the Football Coach, well, my theory is he is looking for the weakest link in the opposition teams. Liverpool’s playing strategy is all about pressing the opposition players on the ball to try to get them to make a mistake. So why focus on all eleven. He finds the one at warm-up that has a poor touch or looks nervous, the weakest one. When this player either has the ball or is about to receive the ball, the Liverpool players, on mass, will press, usually forcing an error and gaining a clear advantage. The rest of the time, like the lion, conserving their energy ready to strike.
Natural selection is a critical strategy in business. Smart businesses are like our three friends; they use techniques to highlight the ‘standouts.’
When we start a business, we try to hunt down everything, try to please and sell to everyone and end up on the business hamster wheel, having to run faster to keep up.
But there is another way.
In any market, 3-5% of the herd are looking right now for your product and services. You and your competitors are trying to hunt them down. So, you chase them all and win some, maybe enough to survive.
But to thrive… Successful businesses know that 40% of the total market is NOT looking right now but do know they have something that needs solving. These people need two things:
1). A method; process; product to solve it.
2). A company who they can trust to solve it.
It is imperative to understand that ALL sales are just about solving problems.
A buyer has an: ‘I am at this position’ – and we call that the ‘before state’ – and want to get to a specific position that we call the ‘after state’. What you do is provide the bit in the middle to get them there.
Your job as the business owner is to understand the problem you are solving by delivering the product or service you do.
It’s easy to say “well, we’re just a restaurant, so people want food.” NO!!!
…Or “we sell bicycles, so they want a bike.” NO!!!
…Or “we are accountants, so they need their year-end figures.” Double NO!!!
All of these businesses are solving problems. By thinking of them differently, you can start to tap into the 40% that nobody is looking at, instead of chasing the herd that everybody is.
The restaurant owner realises that Jazz in the local area is big, so it becomes the Jazz Cafe.
The bicycle shop owner realises a big divorcee problem in his area, so he sets up a Singles Cycling Club and attracts a whole new market.
The accountant realises business needs help, NOT year-end accounts, so set up a business club … Oh and links with the restaurant owner to host business dinners … oh and talks to the bike shop as a lot of the business owners are also into fitness!
Now all three business owners have a market they can call their own, and nobody in competition…
My challenge for you: are you going to continue to chase the herd or stand on your halfway line and look for the one thing you can focus on to create YOUR market?
Investor | Business Mentor at Advocate | Author of I don’t work Fridays
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