Open any business book or listen to current business podcasts and you’re likely to hear a lot of jargon used to explain success.
- Synergistic growth hacking
- Swimlane ideation
- Next-gen omnichannel customer service
The business world is full of buzzwords. And yet the more words there are, the less meaning they seem to have. I set out to create a business based on the opposite. A one-person enterprise, hyper-focused on one word. Not one white paper. Not one mission statement. Not even one jargony phrase. Just one word.
It’s a one-person business, and this past year, it ranked No. 43 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private U.S. companies and No. 1 in Minnesota: studio503: The Company of “And.”
Here’s the thing: Whether or not we acknowledge it, behind all the bravado and buzz speak, the global business landscape is based on only one word. But it’s not “and.” It’s “or.”
- Are we a sales or marketing, or manufacturing, or distribution, or consulting company?
- Should we increase hiring or automate?
- Is our focus on office or sporting or pet or medical products?
Every time we approach an objective with an “or,” the solution isn’t a solution at all. It’s a compromise, a sacrifice.
What if some–or most, or even all–of those became an “and”? Instead of viewing everything as “this or that” scenarios where you try to pick the best of the options, you take the time to develop an entirely new solution.
This is what it’s like to come from a place of “and.”
Some giant conglomerates develop multitudes of products and have different business units, which is a form of “and,” but their models often are based on doing all these things within their businesses, with silos and divisions.
Big businesses do business with big businesses. That’s nothing surprising.
What may be surprising is that there are some individuals and small businesses doing this at high levels as well, without the conglomerates, silos and divisions. They are doing it through partnerships.
It’s the secret to how I made the top 50 in the Inc. 5000. I advocated for manufacturers and retailers. I found a way to deliver quality and margins. I invented ways to generate speed and accuracy. I built a combined sales, marketing, sourcing, distribution, strategy and consulting business while simultaneously launching brands across categories and channels including office, pet, vet, electronic, stationery, sporting goods, laboratory, medical and dental products.
That’s a lot of “ands” for one person–and it was on purpose.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the only one responsible for my company’s success. It has taken years cultivating an arsenal of strategic partners, from independent contractors to key multi-national companies across various markets and channels to have the right combination for each situation. By embracing hyper-accountability and sharing the “and,” I was able to assemble highly effective teams and chart a pathway through partnerships that solved large-scale, global challenges and created an entirely new business model in the process.
The “and” model is based on collaboration, transparency, and integrity. It breaks down silos, profit margin expectations, egos, and political posturing. It leverages creativity and innovation to identify opportunities and accelerate ways to achieve them. For me, “and” took away the status quo. It demolished excuses. It inspired optimism. It was the catalyst for transformative results.
Why should you care? Because this isn’t a story about me. It’s a story about how coming from a place of “and” changes your perspective and can transform or even save your business. Look around. Businesses around the world face unprecedented challenges, and yet, they’re still trying to fix new problems with the old “or” mindset:
- Cost increases: Raise prices to customers or reduce margins?
- Supply chain bottlenecks: Expedite freight or backorder products?
- Labor shortage: Increase wages or fail to fulfill orders?
- Reduced budgets: Launch online or through brick and mortar?
These are common challenges businesses are faced with and when looking at them as choices between them, there has to be a sacrifice with every choice. This is what it’s like to come from a place of “or” as we are all well aware.
Settling for the “or” focused status quo is what keeps so many companies stuck with incremental or no progress. Combine that with siloed operations where every department is struggling with their own “or,” and it’s no wonder so many businesses have failed or will fail soon. “Or” makes them vulnerable to getting disrupted and replaced.
“And” replaces compromise with possibility. It perpetuates optimism and creates energy to seek, discover, invent, innovate, and collaborate.
Coming from a place of “and” means saying “when faced with choices between options, we can find a way to do both.”
There is a word of caution. Success still resides in your ability to execute. You still need to take time to analyze the various opportunities and seemingly endless possibilities of how to combine your network, partnerships and capabilities or you run the risk of becoming over-extended.
Coming from a place of “and” does not mean jumping at every opportunity or idea in a pursuit of doing everything. It means changing the initial mindset that you take when faced with challenges of “or” and how you can approach the solutions differently, which can result in your ability to invent and accomplish more than you could when settling for “or” and “no.”
This is part art, part science, and a lot of wiliness to disrupt. But it’s not disruption to cause problems. It’s disruption to discover and invent new solutions.
Stop choosing. Start adding. If it feels impossible or unrealistic, remember if a one-person company could do it, there is no reason your business can’t as well. Go upward, further and faster by focusing on “and.”
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