Becoming A Category of One


What if you could completely eliminate your competition from your customers’consideration — would you do it? Of course, you would. These days, so many companies strive to fit into a niche that they must elbow their way past a mass of competitors to do so. Why strive to be a leader in your category when you can create a different category and be the only one in it?Such are the lessons to be learned in Becoming a Category of One. By using consultant Joe Calloway’s tips and advice, you can avoid being“commoditized” and differentiate yourself and your business from your competitors simply by shifting focus to your customers. Calloway describesreal-life examples of companies that have gotten to know their customersvery well, and have reaped the benefits of that knowledge in long-term relationshipsand continuous sales. Armed with proof that true success comes to organizations that can stand alone in their fields, he points out how a little self-discovery can take your business far, and how knowledge of self is critical to creating a successful branding strategy.


Deciding to Go

In the film Apollo 13, Tom Hanks’ character, astronaut Jim Lovell, reacts to the U.S. landing on the moon bytelling his wife, “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It’s not a miracle.We just decided to go.“Deciding to go” is the first step toward becoming a“Category of One” — making the commitment that createsa new level of success. Unfortunately, it’s also the step usually not taken. Most companies never decide togo. They talk a lot about it; they write mission statements and hold meetings, but when it comes down to making that commitment, they back away. Extraordinary companies make very deliberate decisions to go in terms of pursuing greatness; of seeing how far they can go and how successful they can become. Then, in order to sustain that success, they recommit to that decision again and again.

 Go Big or Go Home

Most companies never get beyond the talking stages of the decision to go. Even though they think they’ve committed to doing something different and significant, what they’ve really done is commit to the discussion of doing something different and significant — they talk a good game, but never make a single play. The decision to go must be followed by immediate and significant action —a clear sign throughout the company that signals there’s something big going on, made real by action.Many companies encounter their first real obstacle at this juncture — informing employees of impending change. They assume — mistakenly — that all employees not only want to be the best, but are also willing to do what it takes in terms of commitment, change and hard work in order to make it happen. This is often a false and, occasionally, dangerous assumption. If the company’s leadership is unable to rectify the situation,greatness on any level is virtually impossible — nothing of any substance will take place without the commitment of the employees. 

You Get What You Want the Most

Talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words. If you want to be a Category of One, you must back up your stated desire with action. Some companies say, “We want to have the best people in the world,” but they won’t invest in training or better hiring practices. They want their people to take responsibility, but they don’t give those people any real decision-making authority,and they micromanage everything those people do.They say, “We want teamwork,” but they do nothing to improve communication between departments. What they really want is the status quo, with slogans. They get what they want the most.

Know Who You Are

Who are you?

It’s a tough question; most companies can’t answer it. Who are you? Think about what’s important to you,what you’re about, and why your organization opens for business every day. If you have no sense of who you are, what’s really important, and what the point of it all is, you will find it difficult to compete with other companies who have these basics figured out. Every Category of One company creates clarity around the “why” of its business, not simply the “what.”Much of this is wrapped up in your company’s culture;how things are done in your business. Culture is the rules, spoken or unspoken, that the company plays by —every company, whether by design or accident, has a culture. The question for your organization to ponder is whether your culture is the one you want; the one that matches the idea of what your company wants to be.

Strengthen Your Language


Most companies have a mission statement, or a vision statement, or both — carefully crafted declarations that proclaim things like, “We will be the market leader,” or “We will create a superior return for stakeholders,” or some such uninspiring corporate-speak that means little or nothing to anyone in the real world. What is the point of having a mission statement if not to get to the guts of what you’re all about, in a way that actually means something significant, personal and exciting to the people in your organization? A weakness of so many companies is their reluctance to use powerful language to express what they claim are powerful ideas. Sometimes, people in business are so afraid of being “inappropriate,” they use bland corporate- speak that accomplishes nothing. What’s really inappropriate is having a mission statement that means nothing to anyone and fails to excite people. If you have strong feelings about your company, your customers and your people, use strong language.

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