Succeed by Becoming a Category of One

Joe Calloway’s depiction of extraordinary success

I find a bit of humor in reading a good book for a second time by accident…

It’s interesting to see what ideas took hold from the first reading, and to pull out additional ideas that might have been pushed aside or simply missed in that first read-through.

That’s the case with Joe Calloway’s book, “Becoming a Category of One”, and I’m glad I came back to it.


Break from the pack

In his book, Joe asks the question, “What happens when you’re just like everybody else?”

The answer? “Not much” … and therein lies the problem.

If everyone offers the same product and service, there isn’t anything to distinguish your business from the next. And if you’re unremarkable, your success might hinge on whose name the prospect sees first.

It’s also hard to break from the pack by offering a slightly innovative feature. Either it won’t mean much to the consumer, or the others in the pack will quickly adopt it.

Buzzing discs or beepers to let you know your table is ready used to be novel, now they’re standard…

Truly differentiate yourself

So don’t offer the same service as everyone else – create a market where your service is the only option. Be an icon – not just a shadow of the next person.

Joe finds some interesting examples, but perhaps the one that stands out to me is the “they run to your car” company – Les Schwab. It’s hard to be different than the other guy in a commodity market like tires, but they have – they stress their personal attention and that they appreciate every customer and potential customer.

That’s a statement.

How many IT Consultants…

And whether I realized it or not, when I went into the consulting business for myself, I definitely carved out a niche.

There may be thousands of IT consultants out there, and a good number of those may specialize in systems infrastructure, but there is only one Turnaround IT Consultant.

It’s a small market, but it gives me a unique story to tell when networking. I tap into the fact that nearly every businessperson knows and understands what happens when a company does poorly, sacks the CEO, and brings in a Turnaround CEO. I say I’m just like that – but for technology.

And they all get it.

Everyone’s got quality and good prices

This is perhaps one of the more obvious points that seems obvious only when someone else identifies it – everyone is excelling today, so the table stakes to get into the game are high all over. Successful companies find ways to define their service uniquely – and follow through consistently.

Get the book and see for yourself

And so it seems that I took in the essence of the book the first time, but I’ve enjoyed re-reading the book (and for long time readers, have done so without incurring a fine from the library;-).

As you’re reading it, consider:

How large is your market?

How many competitors do you have?

And lastly, are you a commodity within your market, or have you defined your own niche and become a category of one?

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