Why Your Competitive Advantage

Why Your Competitive Advantage 150 150 C-Suite Network

Working in the speaking industry is a unique experience. You get the opportunity to meet and connect with people who have gone through some truly amazing journeys in life and in business. Every so often you meet someone with a relatable and relevant story that can teach you things about your situation by putting yourself in their shoes. That’s the great talent speakers have. To tell stories about life and business that transcend time and industries. They have an innate ability to articulate things that affect us from the vantage point of a relatable story that contextualizes the point of a message to apply to our unique individual situations.

The older I get the more I understand the deeper levels of topics I thought were otherwise banal or seemingly obvious. Having two small children now, for example, I find myself saying completely obvious things to my kids my parents told me that I took for granted at the time. Things I knew were important or sounded important at the time but now that I’m older I know are absolute fundamentals to productive growth.

But I’ve noticed a trend in the business world, where we too often take for granted the meaning of fundamental business truths that can make or break our growth. In our rush to get through business and marketing plans and processes, we plow through the steps and forget to appreciate the fundamentals.

It happened to me recently as I had the opportunity to have a series of personal discussions with Bob Guccione Jr., the founder of Spin Magazine. Something to note about Bob is that he has an incredible ability to talk about culture and human behavior in a way I’ve never heard before. As if he’s zoomed out of the normal framework of conventional thinking and can explain human culture the way a doctor can diagnose a common cold. I asked him many questions about the story of Spin and how he got started, and then something struck me.

Having heard his story first-hand, something hit me like a load of bricks. I’ve always known the importance of the idea of having a competitive advantage. But I’ve always taken it for granted. As if it’s an optional thing to potential flesh out someday or in a workshop. I didn’t realize until hearing Bob’s story, that developing your competitive advantage is as fundamental to a successful business as water is to grow a plant.

In fact, the act of typing it out is quite painful to admit the obvious. In learning the story of Spin Magazine from Bob first-hand (and then later reading he sold the company in 1995 for $43.5 million). What struck me about the story was not the success of the sale of the company. What was truly amazing was how they started from one simple idea to be different than what was available at the time. The idea that someone sat in a room and made a conscious decision to intentionally be different. And it worked!

Bob’s story is an amazing example of turning a vision into success by leading with a competitive advantage. Their strategy was not focused on being the biggest, the fastest, the all-encompassing, it was simply to be something different than was in the current marketplace. In fact, as the story goes, Bob came up with the idea to start Spin while listening to the radio when the song ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ came on. That song sparked an idea in him. That people just want to have more fun and the entertainment industry wasn’t having fun with their readers anymore. They were taking themselves too seriously. And they were focused on an aging music audience. The demand in the market was changing. But the industry wasn’t.

Spin defined its competitive edge from the very beginning. They believed Rolling Stone represented an older generation. They wanted to provide a new fresh approach to a younger demographic. They obsessed about telling stories about emerging musicians in genres that were not being covered. And people noticed. They stepped into an existing space in a new way that a younger audience wanted. They didn’t create demand. They tapped into it.

But how to apply what Spin did in your industry? As Bob explained it, “In a stagnant industry, there’s a major competitive opportunity for someone to come in and disrupt an undefended market…There is no sentry at the gate when everyone else is doing business the same old ways. Leaving the door open for people wanting something new and different.”

Isn’t that the message we hear over and over? In every meeting, in every association, in every industry, I have participated in. How many times have you heard this same thing over and over? People want things that are new and different. They are sick and tired of the same old things, the old way. They want change. The lesson I learned from Bob, was the key to identifying your competitive advantage is your ability to tell a better story than the one that’s available.

“Education is learning more than is being taught. It’s the chemistry of curiosity exposed to information. In that sense, all of life is potentially school. And even I can pass.” – Bob Guccione Jr

This post was written by C-Suite Networks VP of Brand Services, Tyler Hayzlett.