What It Means to Be a Pioneer of Your Industry (and 3 Signs You Might Be One)
Consider yourself a trailblazer of sorts in your industry of choice? Let's see if you fit the bill ...
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When most people hear the word "pioneer," there's a good chance they think of settlers marching across the Great Plains with covered wagons en route to Oregon, California or Utah. In reality, the definition of the pioneer is much broader than that, as it can include anyone who is the first to do something.
Whether that is developing a new technique or being the first member of a group to achieve a specific accomplishment, there are pioneers all around us. Yes, there are pioneers in the business world, too. If you know what signs to look for, you may discover that you're a pioneer as well.
You're bringing a unique take to a product or service
By their very nature, entrepreneurs are usually pioneers. They are willing to take risks as they disrupt established industries and ways of doing things to introduce new ideas or products.
However, as innovation and strategy development expert Gabor George Burt has said, "Meaningful innovation does not need to be based on outright invention. Rather, there is an exhilarating shortcut. It is based on bold, new combinations of already existing components that simultaneously unlock heightened levels of consumer value and reduce costs."
Many of today's biggest brands started as disruptive pioneers. Henry Ford transformed the automotive industry by introducing assembly-line practices that allowed for faster and cheaper production.
Now one of the world's biggest and most trusted technology brands, Amazon got its start as one of the first internet retailers for print books. What started as "Earth's biggest bookstore" took off as the internet became more widely available. Being a true pioneer of e-commerce has resulted in Amazon becoming one of the largest retailers in the world.
Pioneers look for gaps in the marketplace where new opportunities exist for improving on current industry offerings. Whether that is by delivering established products and services in a new way or introducing a completely original product, the early innovators tend to become the market leaders.
You're the first to bring an industry to your area
Historically, many industries have been predominantly white and male. As just one example, 82.6 percent of advertising employees are white — an easy explanation as to why many brands' advertisements have been behind the curve in terms of presenting inclusive content.
Similarly, this has led some industries to ignore certain parts of the globe entirely. This became abundantly clear during a recent conversation with Dawit Abraham, co-founder and CEO of Qene Games.
He explained, "When I was growing up in Ethiopia, I was only exposed to western games and media, with characters that didn't look or speak like me. As I grew older, I began to learn more about and better appreciate the great African dynasties and civilizations of history, as well as our rich culture and folktales. Those stories and perspectives weren't getting shared in the gaming industry — and that's what led me to create the first gaming studio in my country."
When a business serves a new geographic area or demographic and finds success, others are sure to follow. However, the early pioneers who are the first to prioritize these underserved markets are generally going to find the greatest level of success and attain significant brand loyalty.
In fact, research from Google reveals that 64 percent of consumers will take action to either buy a brand's products or learn more about them after seeing inclusive advertising. Reaching out to new groups in an authentic matter can be a powerful driver for success.
You're building your business for a more sustainable future
Many entrepreneurial pioneers are interested in more than just the bottom line. They want their business endeavors to have a net positive on society and the world.
This is a direct reflection of consumer desires. In fact, Business Wire reports that roughly 70 percent of consumers want to know how the brands they buy from are addressing environmental and social issues. Despite this, many brands are lagging behind or only making token efforts in addressing these increasingly common concerns.
Many pioneers in business aren't afraid to lead out or take a stand on issues they feel are important. This means pioneering in different ways than might be expected.
For example, Disney has made massive efforts toward environmental sustainability through actions like eliminating single-use plastic straws at its locations and investing in a solar facility to help power Walt Disney World.
Of course, many entrepreneurs have taken this a step further by making sustainability a core tenant of their business — or even its primary focus. Startups are tackling everything from using internet of things devices so homeowners can sell excess solar power, to offering higher pay to food delivery drivers who use electric or hybrid vehicles.
How will you be a pioneer?
Just about every entrepreneur has the opportunity to be a pioneer in some way…
Just like historical pioneers paved the way for new developments in our country, entrepreneurial pioneers in innovation and inclusion are going to bring new opportunities and changes to their respective industries. As more entrepreneurs develop a pioneering mindset that aims to make a positive impact on the world, the future holds great potential.