When asked how to build a great company based on one idea, I say the following:
Do one thing extremely well. Refine the process. Do it again.
If your business is focused on a great idea, you’d better be sure that everything about your brand reinforces the core benefits of that idea.
Most entrepreneurs and business owners already know this, but coming up with the idea is actually the easy part. There are plenty of idea people out there. What the business world lacks -- and what will set a company's idea apart from the others -- is your ability to execute that idea. People at my company, Point 3 Basketball, often use the acronym ISE (referring to idea, strategy and execution) to go from a concept to reality. Here's how the thinking goes:
You’ve got an idea. Great. Now ask if it’s unique, significant and transformative enough to build a business around.
What is your strategy to develop that idea into a business?
What are the granular steps that you and your team must take to execute on that strategy?
In 2011, my company entered the hyper-competitive basketball-apparel market, mostly occupied by billion dollar corporations. Like any startup founder, I’m a glutton for punishment. But to most observers, this move seemed far-fetched.
My company has a relentless focus on a single idea: DRYV moisture control, for which the company received a U.S. patent earlier this year. It's an absorbent layer in moisture-wicking performance garments, allowing wearers to keep their hands and face dry while on the basketball court. Think of it as a towel built into the sides of shorts. I came up with idea after using my wife's Shamwow towel tucked into my shorts.
While many might consider a narrow focus a limitation, I view it as an asset. Small businesses lack the seemingly endless resources of larger competitors. Staying focused on what the company does best -- and what makes it different -- allows the organization to refine the product and emphasize subtle yet critical differences that might have slipped through the cracks at larger companies. While larger companies focus on thousands of product lines with a variety of consumer benefits, a small organization can attend almost exclusively to one proprietary point of difference that consumers can easily understand.
Here are a few similar examples from other industries to help illustrate the point:
In 2005, Box.com was one of the first companies to offer cloud-based file sharing and content-management services to businesses and individuals. While larger companies like Google and Amazon had a similar suite of services to offer customers, Box.com’s exclusive focus on this niche told customers this was all the company did and suggested that it was the best at it. This first mover advantage is one that competitors have still not yet been able to overcome.
Before Bonobos was an omnichannel retailer doing hundreds of millions in annual revenue, it made pants, really good pants, ones that fit guys the way they wanted, that they couldn’t get anywhere else. The company mastered making and selling pants. Once it earned customers’ trust by delivering one quality product again and again, it evolved into a company that they trusted for outfitting more than just their bottom half.
So how do you translate a good idea -- one that you and your company have been able to successfully execute --- into a brand? A brand evokes a feeling in customers every time they interact with it.
First, ask yourself what you want that feeling to be. Once everyone agrees with it, paint this on the walls of your office. Tattoo it on your wrists. Let it be the guiding light of the business. Then, the same principle applies: Focus.
Steve Jobs famously said, “Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying no to all but the most crucial features.” Let the customer know exactly what the brand stands for and why it needs to be part of their life.
At my company, all we think about every day is innovation on behalf of the basketball player, no one else. And while this focus omits a sizeable portion of a potential customer base, it lets core clients know that we’re looking out for them. And customers can reward that focus with their most important asset: loyalty.