I can’t listen to podcasts while sitting at a desk – too many distractions.   Instead, I save up a few on my phone for longer rides and while waiting in the car for my sons to finish their activities.

Except for a few, my podcast consumption is not finserv related. And frankly, I don’t have the attention span for many of the usual “how to” podcasts, or for a host that drones on and on as if he/she is reading from a script. If I am going to listen, I need to hear good conversations or stories.  I need to be engaged and to be inspired. When I hear something good, I can be seen fist pumping the air.

Looking for advice: everywhere

One of my current favorites is NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz. Each episode is a conversation with a successful entrepreneur who has built an amazing business.  After each show, I sit back and think about what they did different, consider if it was luck or skill, and find the lesson I can learn (and share.)  I am fascinated by these individuals who have achieved success in their field and I always look for takeaways that are relevant for ours. For example:

  • The founder of RX Bars who entered a highly saturated market, almost a commodity business (nutrition bars), by focusing on a niche that he found was not being served – the cross fit/paleo diet devotees.  He started his company in 2013 with a $10K investment and sold it in 2017 for $600MM.
  • The founder of Lululemon Athletica who noticed two things.  1) The population of females graduating from college was surpassing males for the first time and 2) the growth of yoga in the United States.  Seeing these two trends, he created an athletic brand for young professional women.
  • The founder of Panera Bread/Au Bon Pain who watched a customer slice a baguette and shove some lunchmeat between the slices, and realized that there might be a better business from the traditional coffee and bakery he was running.  He invented the fast casual restaurant concept.
  • The founders of Wayfair who recognized early on that e-commerce and search engine optimization was going to change retail forever. They realized that customers didn’t want to be limited to what their local vendor had in stock – that wanted choice, they wanted it their way and they wanted it now.  At one time, they had over 200 specialty websites to attract all types of consumers.

Takeaways while you are driving

All four of those stories prove the benefits of finding a niche, looking for tends in your business, knowing your customer and using technology to reach your target audience (you don’t have to be local anymore.)There are many more examples of these stories but I think you get the idea. I’m inspired by the notion that creating specialty services based on the customer is what drives success, no matter if you’re selling furniture, nutrition bars or financial advice.

Creating specialty services based on the customer is what drives success

What I also hear in those stories is that specialization can align pricing and value. For example, I know I am going to pay more for a quick casual lunch than at a fast food place, but I also value that it is a bit healthier, more comfortable and I get added benefits such as free internet. When pricing and value align, it is a wonderful thing.

What I find most inspiring in these stories is typically that the founder is not doing the same old thing. These people have become successful by opening up their eyes to the world around them. They are seeing trends and acting on them. I look for inspiration in the business world, as well as the advisory world and I love hearing how they found their success.

As we take it to your business, I have to ask:

  • How are you specializing your business?
  • What trends do you see and what are you doing about it?
  • How are you listening to the consumer and what they want?
  • How are you aligning price and value?

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