Real Leaders

Are You Chasing Fads or Solving a Real Problem?

We are all impressionable to fads. Remember fidget spinners? Just a few years ago, these toys became a craze practically overnight. Forbes once called them “the must-have office toys for 2017”, and at one point, they were so popular that giant corporations like Toys R Us had to airfreight tens of thousands of them to their various locations to barely meet consumer demand.

But it didn’t take long for the novelty to lose its edge. Fidget spinners once accounted for 17 percent of online toy sales, but there’s no longer a place for them. The target demographic that once begged to own a fidget spinner has moved on because they’re not considered ‘cool’ anymore.

Fads burn bright. Entrepreneurs often chase these fleeting trends because they’re guaranteed to make a quick buck. But fads don’t burn long. They’re all flash and no substance, so these endeavors are almost always short-lived. Don’t fall into the senseless cycle of building a business on the coattails of a trend knowing it will inevitably fail, and you’ll have to pick up, move on to the next trend, and be doomed to repeat this pattern forever. 

Be a leader in your industry, not a follower. When you start any business, you wager with your future. But when you chase fads, you put everything at risk for just a few months or — if you’re lucky — years of success. This isn’t sustainable, and it causes you to lose sight of the essential focus of your business: the value of your customers and the value you provide to your customers. Fads are volatile; value isn’t. Instead of chasing fleeting success, pour your time, energy, and passion into establishing and promoting what you want your legacy to be. If you keep these two things in mind, you’ll become the industry leader that everyone else wants to emulate.

Be a problem-solver, not a copycat.

Consumer buying behavior may be ever-changing, and market stability may be unreliable, but value will always be important. Because entrepreneurs are esteemed for being visionaries, people believe it’s effortless for them to beget success because they can predict future trends — but trends are unpredictable.

Instead, companies become household names because their entire mission is built around providing value to their customer base. They solve a problem that exists in the market and, as a result, cement themselves as industry leaders. Apple is an excellent example of this.

Steve Jobs didn’t take a gamble when he created the iPhone. He knew what the industry was lacking and envisioned a smartphone device that would solve for those inadequacies. Before the iPhone was announced, there were already 22 million smartphones being sold worldwide. Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson were the market leaders; Apple was the newcomer.

Everyone predicted the iPhone would flop and waited with bated breath for news of its failure. But it didn’t. It was revolutionary. Walter Mossberg wrote in The Wall Street Journal that it was “a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer … [that] sets a new bar for the smartphone industry.” What Jobs did was deliberate and purposeful. The iPhone provided value to consumers that no other smartphone device did at the time.

If Jobs would’ve imitated what Nokia and BlackBerry were doing, they probably would’ve done well for a few months, but they wouldn’t have the 100-million person customer base they do today. But Jobs gave consumers a device that featured design and user elements they’ve never had before. The aesthetic and user-friendliness of the iPhone set a new precedence for the entire smartphone industry. 

Fads can contaminate the market. 

Beyond being short-lived, fads can also have detrimental consequences on entire industries. I own a nutritional supplement company, an industry where the barrier to entry can be reasonably low. For a relatively small amount of money, almost anyone can start selling products virtually overnight. And for this reason, people sometimes get into the supplement business for all the wrong reasons.

When a get-rich-quick approach to business is someone’s primary motivation and their customers are second, it leads to harrowing behaviors and actions that erode a consumer’s trust in supplements altogether.

Consumers can become jaded by initial-experiences-gone-wrong and swear off supplements forever when the problem wasn’t the supplements themselves, but the way they were marketed. All it takes is one rotten egg to ruin the trust and reputability of an entire industry. 

Customers should always be more valuable than your sales. Their needs should come first, and this should inform your entire company mission — from the products you create to your marketing strategy and everywhere in-between. It’s impossible to build a company without a mission, and that mission should always be providing value to your customer

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