Disrupt Yourself and Make 2021 Your Greatest Year Yet!
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Disrupt Yourself and Make 2021 Your Greatest Year Yet!

Disrupt Yourself and Make 2021 Your Greatest Year Yet!

Before I share how to make 2021 your greatest year ever, let me first ask two questions:

  1. What do Uber, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Venmo, and Square all have in common? All of these revolutionary companies started between 2007 and 2009 during the Great Recession. 
  1. Why do so many companies and industries get disrupted by outsiders? Because they believed that what worked in the past will work today, and that what is working today will work tomorrow. Instead of innovating, they remain in denial and become too protective of their old business model.

The opposite of revolutionize is to be stubborn, and being stubborn can be tragic to a business. When Blockbuster was in its heyday, their CEO suggested to the Blockbuster board that they should explore a subscription model similar to what a little startup company no one had heard of, called Netflix, was doing at the time. The board killed the idea because 12% of Blockbuster revenue came from late fees. How did that work out for Blockbuster?

1) Weaponize adversity

Crisis creates opportunity. Adversity is a horrible thing to waste. I actually prefer a recession to a booming economy. It isn’t that any of my businesses do better in a recession, it is that my competition does worse. Right now, and unlike any other time, your business has an incredible opportunity to lap your competitors. To totally crush them, gain more market share, and have the pick of top talent.

To survive beyond this pandemic, you can’t wait for the disrupter who is coming fast. You can’t be in denial of change, defending the way it was, the old guard. You must be the one willing to blow it up, no matter how painful that is.

To revolutionize, you must first re-imagine, re-think, re-create, and transition from defense to offense. When you play defense, you play small, go into prevent mode, focusing only on cost-cutting and what can be eliminated. Playing defense stifles creativity. Defense sucks the life out of your leaders and causes a doom-and-gloom outlook. Playing offense inspires your team to imagine building an amazing future they can be a part of creating: new solutions, innovative products and services, and new revenue streams. This becomes their passion and obsession.

2) Exercise time!

Here is a powerful exercise to quickly recover revenue and accelerate future growth. We use it to help our clients (and our own company) focus on reinventing the future while still generating the necessary sales to get through the pandemic. It consists of 3 columns. Add as many rows as you need. This exercise requires a great deal of time with leaders from every part of your organization.

A—Do Now Sell Now


C—Do Now Sell Later


Column A—Do Now Sell Now. This may seem obvious. However, when thoroughly examining all your current inventory of products and services, you can get really creative. For instance, when you package or bundle high-margin offerings with low-margin ones, increasing the overcall value and attractiveness to the customer, you can increase sales.

Column B—STOP DOING. This is critical to your survival and usually a blessing most businesses wish they would have done much sooner. You can’t chase every opportunity. You need to say “No” to everything that is out of your sweet spot (i.e., easy to do and profitable). Easy to do means it has been (or can be) systematized and requires very little tweaking — a rinse-and-repeat model. This may mean eliminating products and services that aren’t easy to do and profitable. This may mean losing (some call it firing) a percentage of your customers who aren’t easy to work with, high maintenance, or simply not profitable. 

As Seth Godin said during his presentation at 2020’s Customer Service Revolution, “Firing an unprofitable group of customers (with kindness and care) allows you to focus on your most profitable customers. You need to focus on customers with high lifetime value.” You can’t scale your operations or, in some cases, survive these trying times by being all things to all people.

Column C—Do Now Sell Later. This is where the magic happens. It is where the excitement starts, by figuring out how to totally disrupt yourself and the rest of your industry. What should you be developing now that will allow you to grow 10 times faster, revolutionize your business model, and leave everyone else in your industry behind? 

Don’t have a Kodak moment!

The first place to start is with the one question: What do you want your business to look like 10 years from now? Once you figure that out in specific, vivid detail, you then figure out how to make it happen in the next 6 to 12 months as if your personal life (or whatever you hold most dear) depended on it.

To revolutionize, you must first re-imagine, re-think, and re-create. Don’t be stubborn and defensive of your existing model. Don’t be Blockbuster, don’t be Blackberry, and don’t have a Kodak moment.

Instead, let’s go make some history — stories people will talk about for decades, that will be written about in the history books, re-defining the way things are done.

John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or info@thedijuliusgroup.com.

Published: February 9th, 2021

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