Tuesday Toolbox: You too can be an industry disruptor!

I recently watched a pitch by a woman-owned business, See Her Work, at the WBENC Summit and Salute which left me awestruck.  As I watched, I realized that I was witnessing an industry disruptor. Owner Jane Henry tells her story better than I can through this video from GMA: Watch Here

I did some research and here are 7 common characteristics of disruptive leaders. Yes, your ability to actually disrupt an industry depends on what industry you’re in, but the willingness to challenge the norm is a key first step. And truth be told, even if you don’t become a disruptor, incorporating some of these characteristics will make you a better leader.

  1. Banish complacency:  Remember Blockbuster, Blackberry, Kodak and Sears?  Just because you are first to market doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels.
  2. Be a lifelong researcher and learner.  Create focus groups within your own company to learn about efficiency and areas for improvement by the people actually doing the job. One company I know used a free/play money theme and gave each employee $1,000 and asked them to share how they would spend it to improve efficiency and customer service.  One person suggested double computer monitors and that idea led to a marked increase in productivity.
  3. Show your clients how important they are by asking for their opinions on your service delivery, about your designs, about your outcomes and about what is not working.
  4. Reach out to potential clients.  Find people who don’t buy your products and services and ask what needs to change to make them more interested.  Don’t forget to get a cross cultural and cross generational perspective.
  5. Learn from outside your industry. One of our members whose company is in the promotions space signed up for executive training with organizations focused on energy issues.  Five days later she came back with a better understanding of how to run her business; a great group of business owners that she can target as clients; and knowledge on how to approach the energy industry with her products and services.  The best info she got:  learning their “language”.
  6. Ask for help!  Get a mentor. Look for someone who is where you want to be and research how they got there.
  7. Be willing to take risks. And be willing to make the final decision.  Be decisive, even if it means you might have to change down the road.  Adopt a “failure is an opportunity” mentality.

As Gillian Tans of Booking.com says: “Starting a business and building a product are not for the faint of heart. You have to learn to not let little disappointments get you down and to stay focused on the big picture.”

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Nancy Allen




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