Today I spoke with an outstanding CEO, experienced with both global giants and winning new enterprises. Later I got a call from another CEO, doing a world-class new enterprise in a radically new market. Earlier this week and also last week my email correspondence included discussions about ideas for new enterprises that could shake the world. Their questions sounded very similar, about issues that others were inquiring about, yet none were competitors. It sounded like one family talking about the same things.
What I found most intriguing was this: All of these fine people had ideas and issues that were similar to each other. I had to work hard to come up with one thing that one of them wanted to discuss that the others did not have an interest in understanding.
In a word, to be "unique" is very difficult. In fact, thanks to the Internet, I have concluded that there are no unique ideas in the world. As fast as you come up with one, someone in another part of the world will already be working on it. Unique is a very difficult position to attain and retain.
Think about it. How many times have you said or heard "Why didn't I think of that?" Well, someone else did. And I bet that you've also said or heard before "I had that idea years ago!"
So the trick is not to begin with something unique. Do not mis-understand me. Yes, it is important to not try to just me-too, or be a copy-cat. That is not going to produce a world-class winning new enterprise. Here is what I mean: It is what you do with your initial idea that produces the winner, not the initial idea.
You have seen in life people with outstanding abilities fail to use their talent to great advantage and benefit. Brains and brawn and beauty are mostly squandered. The winners come from the wise people who take what talent they have and move on to build something outstanding with it. What you do with what you have is what it's all about. Uniqueness is crafted by determined, innovative minds.
Uniqueness is worth striving for. You can attain it for a new enterprise. And you can retain it.
It begins with your idea and goes on to become organic, a living, moving thing that responds to alterations as competition pops up, technology is delivered and customers respond. Shaping it by the day, the startup crafts its unique identity and communicates that to the people who count the most: investors, employees, strategic partners, the media and eventually customers. What emerges is a unique company. That is what is eventually (over many years) branded. It becomes what people mean when they say the name of your company. WalMart, Porsche. Cisco. Google. Utube, Trump, Virgin.
BOTTOM LINE: If a blog story sounds like it is about you and your company, don't be surprised. It might be. There are few secrets anymore in this Internet era world. People who quit or are fired talk a lot to friends who email friends, and on and on. But more likely it is a story about someone else who is very much like you. Whether it is a story about recruiting, firing a person, positioning a new product, strategy, stock options or getting VC money, you can be sure thousands of new enterprises in countless countries around the globe are having to deal with the identical issues that you are facing today. That is one reason startup veterans talk to other startup people so often.
On May 17 in Boston, I'll be doing a presentation for Trump University and I bet the widely varied audience will have the same questions you will about startups. It's a global world out there, including startups. Everyone knows the importance of being unique. It's up to you to get there. Then you'll know you have a true unfair advantage. I wish you the best!