Re-inventing Firms in a Down-Sloping Market

By: Paul E. Himes

Yesterday, my good friend and prominent businessman, Jim Cahill and I had an hour long conversation  about “re-inventing” our firms in this sideways and down-sloping commercial real estate  market. The turbulence and unpredictability of course, comes courtesy of dynamic (some say destructive) capitalism. It is the ability to think DIFFERENTLY and to view things differently that enables us to formulate game winning strategies, the insight to “zig” when others “zag”, and like a good battlefield general, to know when to charge and when to pull back.

Primarily it is the “How do I differentiate myself?” question that we, as business people, need answered. For you see, our clientele, our customers, are NOT going to take the time to view us differently, or to use any sort of divinator when viewing us. It is us who must present, front and center, that difference. Place the lens in front of their eye, as it were, and FORCE them to view you as you would want them to view you.

How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci” was a great read. It taught me a lot, including to start using my left brain more. My left hand is my off hand since I am right handed.  To this day, years later, I have to continually work at this. Surfing and researching today I ran across this article in Inc. Magazine that struck me a a great distillation of the book in some easy points.

The Italian master had skill and great ideas, but he also had something else: the ability to look at the world around him differently. And Michael Gelb, being a pretty brilliant guy himself, uses DaVinci himself as an easel to paint to you how to think like Leo.

Applying this to my conversation yesterday spawned these thoughts:

Do you look, walk, act and sound too much like your closest competitors? Do SOMETHING about it. Change your viewpoint and start looking at the issue / your firm / your job / your life DIFFERENTLY. So what would Leonardo do? (A new bumper sticker in the making here – WWLD?) Do these: (or other creative ideas)

  • Sharpen your market offering  – focus and dig into specialty niche or sub-niche markets.
  • Everyone in your firm dress in blue suits, white shirts and ties? (ATTENTION: Lawyers and brokers) Do as our Mobil client did when they re-made themselves years ago – BAN the ties.
  • Change your pricing model. I often admired the guarantee of client satisfaction sometimes offered by the Staubach Company . 100% guaranteed. In the clients sole discretion.
  • Everyone using PowerPoint? Ditch it and bring an easel with a blank piece of paper and some markers. Start writing down what the CLIENT says. Which of course is what counts anyway.

And for the must have “wax on, wax off” balance and counterpoint – what should you NOT do as a so called “differentiator”? Some thoughts –

  • Offer yet another incremental copy cat offerings – ANOTHER dashboard of metrics? PUH-LEEEEZE
  • Add more dots to the maps of locations. YAWN. Ever heard of the internet? Mobile devices? I can be anywhere in this country in 6 hours
  • Add yet another service offering as an extension of your services. WOW ! Soon we will have firms that do EVERYTHING providing services to companies who outsource it all and do NOTHING.

These are easy thoughts and ideas. Getting more specific as to your particular situation is difficult. Intrigued enough to read the book? Get it here.

From that little company who saw things differently and differentiated themselves. Amazon.

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