Sometimes, we as entrepreneurs and CEOs implement “normal” or traditional strategies that we learned in our business schools. These may be the strategies that are supposed to work or the strategies that many other companies are using, yet we don’t see the results we were expecting. In this episode, we’re going to talk about one of the most common reasons this happens, and we’ll discuss a more effective way to accomplish what matters most.

Doing Things The Same Way as Everyone Else

Years ago I began working with a company that had a very talented, successful, and intelligent executive. This executive (who was not the CEO) had graduated from a great business school where he had been taught strategies and models that have been widely used to run many successful businesses in the past.

The problem was, these were the same strategies and models that were being implemented by a huge number of businesses around the world. If most business leaders are following the same business strategies and models, then the business with the best resources is often going to win. This could spell disaster for the entrepreneur starting out with fewer resources and brand recognition than the larger companies.

This is one of the reasons why close to half of all small businesses fail within the first five years and only 1 in 3 stay in business for 10 years (Source: Forbes). They simply don’t have the resources to compete head-on with the larger, more established companies.

Finding a More Effective Way

When I started working with this company, they gave me a very ambitious goal. To achieve this goal we decided to go into a niche that had two Fortune 100 competitors already dominating it. These companies were well-established in this space and had far more resources than we could ever have. I knew we could not compete with these companies head-on with the “normal” or traditional strategies they were already using. Instead, we needed to do something different and compete in a smarter way.

So, we asked ourselves: “What is the most important thing we need to do?” Once we figured out the answer to that question, we went on to ask ourselves: “What is the most effective way to get that done?”

Why can’t you just do anything the normal way?

The strategy I created based on the answers to these two questions was new and very different from what this executive had been taught at his business school. Over time, my strategy of doing things in a non-traditional way very understandably started to be a little frustrating for this executive. I completely understand where this successful executive was coming from, and I may have felt the same way if I had been in his shoes. He was taught strategies from professors much smarter than I am.

I remember him once asking me “Nathan, why can’t you just do anything the normal way?” I think for him that statement was a sort of reprimand, but to me, it felt like a compliment. I have no problem doing things the normal way as long as the normal way is the most effective method for getting the most important thing done.

David and Goliath

The strategy I helped roll out for this company was focused on leveraging the tectonic shift of connecting through passions. We were able to surpass the social reach and digital growth of both Fortune 100 companies in this niche and achieve the initial, ambitious goal.

Even though we had far fewer resources, we succeeded because we leveraged an emerging tectonic shift much faster and more effectively than either of the Fortune 100 companies. It kind of reminds me of David and Goliath. David was much smaller and didn’t have the best-fitting armor or the normal weapons, but because he effectively leveraged a different and more effective weapon, his sling, he was able to win the battle. The sling was his tectonic shift in battle that Goliath had not even considered being a serious threat; just like our strategy of connecting through passions was a tectonic shift that our Fortune 100 competitors didn’t consider.

Ride the Wave Tectonic Shifts Provide

I like to compare leveraging tectonic shifts to surfing. The first time I went surfing was on a family vacation to Hawaii, and I took one of my daughters with me. I hired a surf instructor who guaranteed we would be able to surf. When it comes to surfing, I had always assumed that the hardest part would be getting up on the board. And trust me, that part is hard for beginners like me. But in reality, the hardest part was swimming out to the waves over and over again. It took a lot of effort and time because we had to paddle our boards through the waves which were pushing us in the opposite direction. It took way too much energy just to get out past the waves.

Compared to the difficulty of getting out there, surfing back into shore was so much faster and easier, taking only a small fraction of the time and energy. The waves propelled us back to shore in just a few seconds with very little effort on our part.

Leveraging tectonic shifts is like riding the waves to the shore. The wave is going to go to shore whether or not we’re riding it, just like the tectonic shift is going to happen whether or not we’re leveraging it. There’s a huge amount of momentum that is being exerted by that wave, and that momentum will propel us if we just catch the wave or implement the tectonic shift.

Leveraging tectonic shifts can greatly accelerate and make it much easier to achieve our monetization goals. When our competitors don’t recognize and leverage tectonic shifts, it’s as though we are traveling the same amount of distance, but they’re swimming against the waves while we’re riding the waves to shore. Tectonic shifts can empower smaller companies with fewer resources to compete with and beat their more established competitors, and arrive at their desired destination faster.