Management Practices

Finding the ‘It’ Factor

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 1:35 PM
By Neil Ducoff

The most coveted quest in business is to reach and surpass the tipping point that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. The further you reside on the side of extraordinary, the brighter your “it”—what makes your business special—will shine, setting you apart from the competition.

Achieving your “it” signifies the successful pursuit of something special. Achieving “it” pushes that entrepreneurial button that ignites passion, innovation and determination. “It” is financially and emotionally rewarding. But beware: Your “it” can evaporate in a heartbeat.

You can have the greatest product or service, yet still never achieve your “it” if you can’t lead, manage, control and deliver with superb execution. And if you’re not willing to take risks, your great product or service may never move beyond concept.
Leadership: Leaders push, inspire and nurture the creation and continued vitality and evolution of the company’s “it.” Your precious “it” must be protected at all cost.

You must do what others dare not. As W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne explained in their book, Blue Ocean Strategy, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus. They eliminated the animal acts (and therefore the huge expense of transporting, feeding and caring), the three rings and costly star performers. Cirque combines the fun and thrill of the circus with the intellectual sophistication and artistic richness of the theater. Cirque kept the clowns, the tent and the acrobats, but changed the look and feel.

The tent, more than any other feature, makes a circus special. By glamorizing the tent—giving it a grand external finish and comfortable seating—Cirque put a unique spin on a familiar form of entertainment.

Redefine price and value: Because you are redefining your offerings, the price and value of your “it” is no longer relevant to that of the competition. Rather than going after the family market, Cirque du Soleil created a new market among adults seeking more intellectually unique entertainment—adults who are willing to pay for the Cirque experience.

This is not to say that the “it” always commands a higher price; it simply means that your business stands out from the crowd. A salesperson can demonstrate this in the way he or she caters to the needs of customers.
Apple did it with the iPod and again with the iPhone. FedEx did it with overnight delivery. Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market did it with entertaining antics to attract attention.

Discover your “it.” Find your own piece of uncontested market space. “It” can be as simple as adding value to what you already do. “It” can be as basic as delivering on the promise to be the very best you can be.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the salon and spa industry. During his 38 years as a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and author, Ducoff gained respect as the guru of team-based compensation. Ducoff is the author of Fast Forward, the definitive business resource book for salons and spas. Ducoff’s new book, No-Compromise Leadership, is published by DC Press and is available at For a signed copy, go to You can e-mail Neil at [email protected].

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