Today I was reading Seth Godin and he was talking about making breakfast. Well, kind of. He was really talking about the danger of compromising in your quest to become remarkable. Seth eats the same breakfast cooked in the same way every morning—he loves it. Yes, he could use a cheaper skillet, use lower quality eggs and herbs, and still have a decent edible breakfast—that is, he could compromise—but it would cease to be his beloved remarkable breakfast.
This reminded me of the story of a successful small café that was renowned for its exceptional New England clam chowder. The café was packed every day during the lunch hour, business booming. Then the café owners had what they thought was an excellent idea: they could save money and turn a better profit if they ever-so-slightly changed their clam chowder recipe. So they did.
First, it was a little more water and a little less base. Oh yes, the profits soared. Then it was a little less clam. And then a little less of this and that, and pretty soon they were having a hard time filling the café at lunch, and found it very difficult to make any profit at all.
The lesson is clear. Over time, the café’s exceptional clam chowder became average, so no one came to eat it anymore. In their hunt for profit and money, the owners lost the quality of their product, and thus lost their customers and the ability to sustain a successful business.
This story has stuck with me over the years as I have worked in various businesses and industries. To be successful in business over the long run, you must do something remarkably or offer a remarkable product or service. You must make yourself different, you must stand out from the crowd. The goal is to first, understand what makes you remarkable, and then—the crux—you must keep doing it. Or the customers who love you will leave you.