The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 28, 2013

Ask the Mompreneur: Differentiate yourself with one thing

By Jennie Wong
The Charlotte Observer (MCT)

— This week’s “Ask the Mompreneur“ features an interview with Dave Ramos, strategy consultant to small and medium-size businesses and founder of ShiftPoints Inc. His new book is “Decide One Thing: The One Thing Every Executive Team Must Decide.“

QUESTION: I think most business owners would like to become the leader in their market, but few know how to go about doing that. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to stand out from the crowd?

ANSWER: Whenever I meet a new business owner, I always start with the same question: “How do you differentiate your company?“

You’d be surprised how many people can’t answer that question.

If we’re being honest, most organizations look alike, sound alike and act alike. Their products are the same. Their brands are bland. They risk disappearing into a vanilla sea of sameness.

In contrast, market leaders decide to differentiate themselves by becoming great at one thing, which gives them a clear competitive advantage. Wal-Mart chose price as their one thing. Nordstrom chose customer service. Apple chose product design. These market leaders recognized that trying to be all things to all people is the formula for mediocrity.

So you have to decide. And it’s not just about words or taglines. You must be relentless about becoming truly great at your one thing.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of this lately has come from 18-year-old entrepreneur Emily Rollins, of Emily Rollins Photography. In her own words,

“I have always leaned toward having my own style of photography but for some reason felt that I had to do business like everyone else. I had a fear of eliminating customers who, though they weren’t ideal or the direction I wanted to go, were still customers. .

“I read ’Decide One Thing’ and immediately connected with the ideas. . The night I finished the book, I stayed up until 3 a.m. deleting all the photos that didn’t represent my ’one thing,’ and rewriting descriptions on my website to align with my vision.

“I woke up the next morning with that insecurity and doubt gone. I knew my target market and was done dabbling in other markets. You can’t win pleasing everyone, and I know that now more than ever.“

An organization’s “one thing“ is the hub of the wheel. If it is clear and true, the organization can align around it and win. If it is vague and wobbly, the whole organization will under-perform. Therefore, leaders must choose their one thing based on a deep understanding of the market, their customers, competitors and the organization’s strengths, assets and sources of competitive advantage.

Differentiation-driven organizations are relentless, rigorous, uncompromising, obsessive and unwavering about their one thing - and that’s why they win.

Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book “Ask the Mompreneur“ and the founder of the social shopping website Email her at