Douglas magazine Aug/Sep 2014 - page 7

Douglas 7
Page One Publishing Inc.
From the Editor
What makes your
business unique?
There are all kinds of leaderS
with all kinds of leadership styles. The ones
who intrigue me most are leaders who define themselves as being in service to a
group of people or an idea. Two of the people featured in the Douglas Leadership Issue
are perfect examples. Naz Rayani of Heart Pharmacy (formerly People’s) and Daniela
Cubelic of Silk Road are visionary business leaders who each possess a sense of
humility and curiosity that allows them to listen closely to their customers. Both seem
to understand that their businesses are not just products or stores — they are stories.
It’s stories that give power and depth to brands, and make them unique. Trying to
uncover or create that uniqueness can be difficult for many business owners. I just
read about a Japanese denim company that has gone to gimmicky extremes. Zoo
Denim sends its jeans to the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Japan where tigers, lions and
bears gnaw, chew and scratch — to distress the denim. The jeans then retail for —
get this — more than $1,000 U.S. Why would someone want to pay that? Because of
the story of how the jeans got that way. The brand story
becomes part of the customer’s story.
Not everyone can (or should) go to those extremes of
Zoo Denim to create a story for customers, but it’s still
vital to figure out what makes your story unique. I can’t
begin to tell you how many times I’ve asked someone I’m
interviewing what sets their business apart and hearing:
“We offer great customer service” or “We give back to
community.” That’s nice — it’s certainly important — but
it’s not a powerful story and it’s not a differentiator.
Another thing I’ve discovered during years of interviewing business owners is that
they’ll frequently talk about all the standard things I mentioned above — and then,
just when the interview is almost over, they’ll say something like “I don’t know if this
is important but…” and it will usually be something they think is trivial or dull, but is
actually a gem waiting to be polished.
Even if you sell the same products as your competitors, your brand will have a story
no one else can replicate. So yes, you can go to extremes like sending your products
to the wilds of British Columbia to be distressed by mountain lions, but it’s probably
much easier to take the route of people like the Rayani family and Daniela Cubelic and
keep your ear to the ground, listening closely to your customers. Those customers are
your mirrors. They’ll tell you what they think your story is.
— Kerry Slavens
Every business
should have
a compelling
story to tell.
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