Monday, August 24, 2009


If you rest on your accomplishments once you reach the top, eventually you lose. Read this wisdom from Harvey:

Outsmarting the professor

A young boy enters a barbershop and the barber whispers to his customer, "This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch this." The barber calls the boy over, puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other and asks, "Which do you want son?" The boy takes the quarters and leaves the dollar.

"What did I tell you?" said the barber. "That kid never learns!"

When the customer leaves, he sees the same boy coming out of the ice cream store and says, "Hey, son. Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?"

The boy licked his cone and replied, "Because the day I take the dollar, the game's over!"

Who really won?

Not only that, but who will continue to win? My money is on the boy, who will someday own the barbershop and turn it into a national chain. He has the instincts to do it!

Outsmarting the competition has taken on a whole new meaning, now that competition is stiffer than ever. As we watch long-time successful businesses crumble under economic pressure, we must constantly look for ways not only to survive, but to thrive.

First and foremost, remember that the customer is the boss. No one owes you their business, nor is loyalty the guiding principle it once was. What we are finding now are customers who are tuned in to breakneck pricing with backbreaking service. If you weren't delivering that before, you'd better start now, because your successful competitors are.

Sam Walton put it in very simple words: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

Take a cold hard look at your products, whether they're envelopes or hamburgers or insurance policies. Are you selling what customers want and need, or is your offering getting a little stale?

For example, I came across a television program about the best hot dogs in America. A very popular, generations-old establishment that was featured has all the usual weenies, but has added a vegan version to please their meat-avoiding diners. Customers rave about them. Hot dogs a health food—what next?

Creativity, innovation, preparation, paying attention to and being able to predict trends—all are necessary elements in beating the competition. You may not get it right every time, but you'll never get it right if you don't try. The hot dog entrepreneurs recognized that eating patterns have changed in the decades since their forebears opened for business and did their homework. Professor Mackay gives them an A+.

In case you think this is a recent phenomenon, I'll direct your attention to some wisdom from Elbert Hubbard, a writer who made this statement—100 years ago: "The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone who is doing it."

The Wright brothers were among many who were experimenting with airplanes. They were all using the same principles of flight, but the Wrights added something: movable flaps, the forerunner of the modern aileron. Maybe that's what your idea needs—movable flaps to help you soar over your competition.

Michael Dell, founder and CEO of the computer giant that bears his name, started outsmarting the competition as a teenager. As a newspaper salesman for the Houston Post, he figured out a way to sell thousands of new subscriptions. "There were two kinds of people who almost always bought subscriptions to the Post: people who had just married and people who had just moved into new houses or apartments," he said. He figured out how to find those people. He learned that people who wanted to get married had to get a license at the county courthouse, a public record, and that certain companies compiled lists of people who had applied for mortgages. He started with those with the highest mortgages, his first experience with what he would later call "segmenting the market." Coincidentally, that strategy contributed mightily to Dell's later success.

As humorist Will Rogers was fond of saying, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." That's when the competition is outsmarting you.

Mackay's Moral: If you want to outsmart the competition, you have to out-think the competition.

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