Winning As The Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I’m only 30 pages into Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, and I’ve already learned much.

David And Goliath bookcover

Pic credit: Gladwell.com

This highly publicized new book starts off with a bang, taking a closer look at the ultimate underdog story: David vs. Goliath. Upon further review of this epic confrontation, David wasn’t nearly at the disadvantage we all thought he was. Therein lies the answer; oftentimes, the very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable. Make sense? Read the book; it’s definitely worth your time.

The very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable.

Next, Gladwell moves on to discuss how a small army and an inexperienced basketball team are successful by not going toe-to-toe with their much better, highly favored opponents. That’s noteworthy and can be applied to your business. Do one or two behemoths dominate your industry? Don’t worry, you don’t have to beat them head-to-head. Target a different demographic; offer your customers a different experience.

Target's bulls eye logo

Bulls eye? Target’s famous logo.
Pic credit: Target

Who’s a perfect example of this philosophy? Target. The discount retailer never tried to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart, who has dominated this landscape for years. Instead, Target aimed for a slightly more affluent, design-conscious consumer who still liked to be money-savvy. From the beginning, the discount chain aimed to be invested in its stores’ communities, donating to local charities and giving back to local schools. It also was into being green before being green was cool. Target was a leader in its industry with pushing reusable bags (by offering a 5% discount on each purchase bagged in one) and offering in-store recycling centers.

The irony is now that Target is very competitive with Wal-Mart’s pricing (its calling card), and is even less expensive on some items. In keeping with its philosophy, you’ll never hear Target advertise this fact specifically though. The company is staying true to its vision and will not directly confront Wal-Mart, even when it proves to be superior.

Take a tip from David, Target and all of the other underdogs out there. You don’t have to be big and mighty to win. Sometimes your ‘weaknesses’ turn out to be your biggest strengths, when you use them to your advantage.

How have you outmaneuvered a favored opponent?

How have you turned a supposed weakness into a strength?

Who’s your favorite underdog in history?

Always the underdog,
Jaime

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Are Your Company’s Policies Helping You Do Business?

That may seem like an obvious question, but when’s the last time you reviewed your company’s policies? Are they still relevant today or stuck in the past? Do they encourage customers to do business with you or push them to your competitors?

Recently, I ran into a situation of what I consider to be outdated policies. As previously noted, I came to the difficult decision to cut cable and also got rid of my landline. The latter may seem obvious today, but I had kept it to this point for my business. I still have Internet through this company, along with a greatly reduced monthly bill.

I made sure to cancel my cable and landline two weeks before my next scheduled payment was due, so I wouldn’t have to deal with credits. As this company charges in advance for its services (which I find a little outdated itself), I expected only my Internet fee to be withdrawn for the next month.

The penguin's even confused.

What?!

Talk about a (bad) surprise! I noticed that my account had not been updated online a week later, so I called. Despite my protests, two different people informed me that it was company policy not to make changes during a billing period. Huh?! Their reasoning? They don’t send out updated bills. I receive paperless statements, as I would think most people do today, so I’m not sure what the company’s “sending out.” Also, in this age of real-time information, I was shocked at how slow this company processes changes.

I’m paying a company in advance for services I no longer have with them, so they can credit my account later.

Does this make any sense to anyone? I’m serious; I would love your feedback. Am I expecting too much?

My changes won’t be processed until my next billing cycle even though the company was able to cut off my services in 10 minutes. Is this acceptable?

You’re probably asking why I don’t move my business. There are limited choices in my market, and the only other company is actually worse to deal with. I know, because I used to deal with them.

Note that I’m not a complainer nor do I expect companies to cater to me. A little customer service would be nice though.

No marching bands or circus animals!

Do your company policies make sense?

So back to you and your company… do your policies make sense? Are there reasons behind them? Do they help you do business? If not, it may be time for a review.

Please chime in… what do you think of my situation? Is it acceptable or an example of an outdated policy at work?

Have a great week,
Jaime

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