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The simple secret that changed my company, forever

Most people operate from cultural norms that are ingrained into all of us since birth. We've been taught (both consciously and subconsciously) that (woodworking) companies have their typical location, products, services, way of talking to the world, and so on.

These cultural norms are what give us the gall to say "We don't do that," or, "That's not how it works." We feel comfortable responding in a conformist way, because the culture supports it. Or does it?

Here's the secret that changed my life and made my company amazingly profitable once I realized its truth: Our culture encourages one behavior, but rewards the opposite. In other words, when something "safe," "tested," or "normal," it's not worth as much. You get paid more when you're an outlier. Commoditization is what happens when everyone in an industry pretty much does/sells/has the same thing. Sound familiar? 

Look around you. The companies that are truly doing something important in the world (don't rule out lowly woodworking businesses), or who are having success are doing something different from everyone else. How many companies in our industry are similar to the next? How many of your competitors have a similar product line, services, pricing, blah, blah, blah...? How many standouts does our industry have? Those few are the ones having the courage to stand out against the current status quo and try something different. They aren't afraid to fail, but fail fast and cheap (A whole topic for another day), and they aren't afraid of being different

One of my most favorite messages of all time comes from a 1997 Apple commercial: