I remember the day when I recognized that the ‘me too’ approach wasn’t the path to professional success.

I’d been the head baseball coach at a small University in Ohio for two years and the results had been just a bit above average. We had won more games than we lost, but when we played the better teams on our schedule we got pummeled.

It all came to a head one sunny afternoon in May 1997 when the best team on our schedule beat us 13-1 to end our season. It brought to a close a year where I’d worked 80+ hours every week and pushed our team about as hard as possible without fear of a revolt. My approach to competing was basically to practice, play and recruit in the same fashion as everyone else and simply out work them. This worked well enough to beat the average teams, but it became painfully obvious that it was a recipe for failure in my quest to become a Championship program.

I took a long hard look in the mirror. What was the answer? I couldn’t simply work more and expect a significantly different outcome. I had to approach things differently.

About that time, I was reading a book by Steve Spurrier where he mentioned that you either had to be better or be different to win. I was less experienced with inferior resources than my competition, I couldn’t even offer athletic scholarships. The only option was to be different.

I revamped everything. I began studying direct response marketing and selling to change my recruiting. I reinvented the way we practiced, developed our players, crafted our culture and even overhauled our style of play. The results were immediate. We became a nationally competitive program the next season and maintained that level of play during my remaining four seasons as the coach.

When I started my first business, a personal training company, that lesson was still fresh in my mind. At the time (in 2004) everyone was selling one hour sessions in blocks of 10 or 12 and training everyone in a one-on-one setting. My business was a community of just 23,000 in central Kentucky, so there just wouldn’t be enough traditional personal training clients to build a successful business using this approach. Instead I offered 30 minute sessions and sold annual programs that were a better fit for the market. Again, the results were solid. In just 18 months we had 420 training clients when the average personal training business in a bigger market was lucky to have 20{cd266c1509fca34f59dc93da7daf12a6ee52c6401aabb2126e757d9de7c223fc} of that.

This commitment to being different persisted over the development of more than 20 additional businesses and the results were always similar. After spending several years coaching other business owners to employ this approach, I launched two different franchises that epitomized this philosophy.

In both cases, while virtually all other franchisors were focused on selling new locations, I centered my efforts on finding current business owners who would be interested in converting their existing location to a member of the franchise organization. They would have more autonomy than typical franchisees and even be able to maintain their current brand name.

Both franchises grew at a breakneck pace, one adding 116 locations in its first year. By the third year franchising, both were recognized as the #1 franchise in their respective categories by Entrepreneur magazine in their Franchise 500 – primarily due to this willingness to be different.

After I sold my stake in those businesses, I wanted to focus my time on business coaching so I launched a new business, essentially creating my own category: helping entrepreneurs build what I call their Ideal Business. One that provides the impact, income and lifestyle they want as business owners.  While everyone else was focusing on the same sales and marketing tactics, I could again separate myself from the competition.

So how do you differentiate yourself?


Start With You.

Build your business around your values, strengths and goals – that operates within the guardrails that you set.

Basically…Who you are. What you want. Remember…there is only one you. It’s your ultimate differentiator.

Here’s a tip: You DON’T want to be all things to all people. You DON’T want to target and market to everyone. You DON’T want to be a poor imitation of someone else. That’s not how to build a successful business that you love owning. Good business design begins with you.

Develop Your Brand.

When I ask someone about their brand, they often aren’t sure where to start. I’ll make it simple for you…I’m really talking about two things:

  1. Who do you want to work with?
  2. What do you want to be known for?

If you are clear on those two answers, everything else becomes easier. To build a loyal following you need to know who you want to do business with. It’ll ensure that the people you attract – are the people you want to do business with. And as important as it is to know exactly who you want to attract – you also want a clear idea of who you don’t want as a client.

With me so far?

OK – then the other component of building your brand is identifying what you want to be known for. It’s basically a statement of who you help and what you do. When you clarify this, it’ll be far easier to create ads, write sales copy and say things that your prospective clients actually care about. You’ll be able to “connect” with those prospects on a deeper more emotional level.

It gives you a position you can OWN in the market. Positioning is the ‘perception’ that happens in the minds of your target prospects. The story they tell themselves. And if you do a good enough job with “positioning” you render the competition irrelevant. You essentially become a specialist for the ‘right’ people, and people gravitate to specialist over generalists.

Your brand will give you a position that will…

  • Create a laser-focus in on your ideal target prospect.
  • Filter out who you don’t want.
  • Differentiate you and your business from everyone else.

In today’s me-too marketplace, this is how you win. It’s why people will chose you above everyone else.

About the Author

Pat Rigsby

Pat Rigsby is a Business Coach who helps entrepreneurs and Thoughtleaders® build the business and success that they want. He’s built over 25 different businesses including two Entrepreneur Franchise 500 Award Winning franchises and a 3X INC 5000 company as well as authoring or co-authoring 11 different Best-Selling books. Pat can be reached at [email protected].