Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sacrifice

The best brands know that they simply cannot be all things to all people. It must know itself and have a clear vision of what it wants to be. This of course requires sacrificing opportunities.

The leadership of Zappos and Apple fully understand this branding lesson. I recently read this passage from Zappos founder Tony Hsieh.

"It was hard for us to persuade anyone to fund this crazy concept of selling shoes online, and about 25 percent of our revenue at the time was coming from drop ship. But we decided to end it. Even though it was hard to walk away from sales at a time when nobody is offering you money, we couldn't distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our customers if we weren't going to control the entire experience. We had to give up the easy money, manage the inventory, and take the risk."

I read that immediately recalled this piece about Steve Jobs return to Apple in 1997. In it the author recalls when Jobs shut down her successful server management division because it didn't fit with his vision for Apple.

I was there when he made the decision to shut down big portions of revenue-generating businesses (including my division) because they didn't fit with his vision for the company. Some people thought he was crazy. But he was being extremely clear, and in doing so, he "MurderBoarded"—eliminated many options to get one cohesive strategy—his way to greatness.

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