By Shep Hyken

Do you remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When you’re a child, the typical answers are aspirational, such as being a doctor, a fireman, a superhero, an athlete, and more. 

I have a grown-up version of this question. It’s not about what you want to be. It’s not even about you. It s about your company. You may be grown up, but your company should always be developing and evolving, so the question is now about your company’s aspirations. Specifically, it’s about what company you aspire to be like. Consider this question: 

If your company could be like any other company, what would you want it to be like?  

In business, we compare ourselves to the competition. We often look at market share as one of the success criteria. If we’re losing market share to a competitor, we analyze why. If the reason is that they are doing something different – something we should be doing – we feel compelled to do the same. But that’s simply imitation, which means you’re commoditizing your company and products.   

What if we looked at the bigger picture? This goes beyond looking at a competitor, who may or may not be more successful, larger, or doing something different. Let’s consider imitation, but let’s imitate a company that is outside of our industry.  

I recently did an informal poll on LinkedIn and asked: Which company’s customer service approach would you want your businesses to be like? There were four choices: Amazon (all online), Ritz-Carlton (high touch), Uber (super convenient), and Ace Hardware (so helpful). I found the answers insightful: 

  • 37% want to be like the Ritz-Carlton 
  • 25% want to be like Ace Hardware 
  • 22% want to be like Amazon 
  • 16% want to be like Uber 

Regardless of the survey results, I’d love to take a piece of each of these brands and roll it into what we do – especially if we’re not already doing it. I’d love to give our customers a high-touch experience that is also helpful and super convenient and to create an online experience that even somewhat resembles Amazon. The combination would be amazing. 

I love discussing the companies we love to do business with outside of our own industries, and that’s why. Often we find ideas and tactics that will work for us, and they are usually ideas that our competitors haven’t yet thought of. That removes us from being a commodity and positions us as unique and special for our customers. Deliver an experience your competitors don’t, and watch how many of your customers say, “I’ll be back!”