Agencies are brilliant at helping their clients differentiate themselves from the pack.  And yet, this is the Achilles Heel for most agencies.  You look and sound just like everyone else on the block, in the pitch or online.

It’s not easy to find the kernel of what makes you unique and the right fit for your clients.  And you can’t use the same trite language (full service, integrated, we love to partner with our clients, etc.) and sound different. Maybe it’s not about how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else in the pack.  Maybe it’s about creating a new category so you truly stand alone?

That’s the premise of my podcast guest Christopher Lochhead. He’s a longtime CMO, entrepreneur and author who has had just enough of the right mindset, courage and faith to unlock the key to differentiation. His book, “Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets” details the method to his madness — what he calls “category design.” He explains it as “creating your own niche to become nouveau riche.”

If you want to drive growth on both the agency and client side, follow along as Christopher and I go through the steps of adopting category design with:

  • Chris’ career journey that took him from Silicon Valley CMO to coach to podcast host
  • Chris’ book: “Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets
  • What category design is and why every agency needs to get great at it
  • Why “category” is as important as “product” and “company”
  • How to position your agency in a category that you can dominate
  • The two kinds of problems that need solving
  • The three questions to ask to start creating your category to dominate
  • The three ways service-based businesses make money
  • Why your client base may change after you define your category (and why that’s perfectly okay)
  • Why your agency can still do work that doesn’t fit exactly in your category if needed (the kids gotta eat!) as long as the perception of your agency stays within your category
  • Why legendary category designers always expand what they do
  • Why becoming a category king is going to take a leap of faith
  • And tons of examples of category kings that have done what it takes to stand out amongst the competition

Christopher Lochhead is co-author of Harper Collins’ instant classic “Play Bigger” and host of the Legends and Losers podcast.

Christopher is a retired three-time, Silicon Valley, public company CMO, entrepreneur and category designer. Fast Company Magazine calls him a “Human Exclamation Point” and The Economist calls him “off-putting to some”.

He can recite much of The Big Lebowski but can’t remember his wife’s phone number. He’s a proud advisor to nonprofit 1 Life Fully Lived, an ass-kicking public speaker, and surf / ski bum living happily ever after in Santa Cruz, California with a wonderful tribe and 7 beautiful hens.

To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/christopher-lochhead/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.

If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:

Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)

  1. More on Chris’s Background
  2. Explaining the Concept of Category Design
  3. What “Brand” Means to Agencies
  4. How Agencies Should Think About Category Design
  5. What’s More Important: Skill, Scale or Time?
  6. How to Introduce Category Design to Your Team
  7. How Category Design Relates to Brand Positioning
  8. Why You Need to Keep Innovating and Evolving Even After Designing a Category
  9. How to Know if You’re Heading Down the Right Path
  10. How Business Owners Can Design Their Own Categories

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by Hubspot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing us 25+ years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan: Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about the future, we’re going to talk about differentiating yourself, helping your clients differentiate themselves and I suspect a wide array of other topics. Let me tell you a little bit about today’s guest. Christopher Lochhead is co-author of what was called the instant classic by Harper-Collins, the book is called Play Bigger. He also hosts a great podcast called Legends and Losers. He is a retired three-time Silicon Valley public company CMO.  He is an entrepreneur and he is a category designer which we’re going to dig into.

Here’s the dichotomy of Chris. Fast Company Magazine calls him a human exclamation point and The Economist calls him off-putting to some, we’ll see where he falls today. He can recite much of The Big Lebowski but he can’t remember his wife’s cell number. I think we all suffer a little bit from that, thanks to our smart technology. He’s also the proud adviser to the non-profit One Life Fully Lived. He calls himself and others call him an ass-kicking public speaker. He’s also a surf and ski bum, living happily ever after in Santa Cruz, California with a wonderful tribe and some hens. We’ll see if we’ll get into that so Chris is all about designing a legendary business and a legendary life. You know that that sounds good to me.

Chris, welcome to the podcast.

Christopher L: Drew, couldn’t be more stoked to be here with you and your listeners. Thanks for having me.

 

More on Chris’s Background

Drew McLellan: Let’s talk a little bit about how you evolved out of your Silicon Valley CMO life to where you’re at today. Take us quickly through that evolution.

Christopher L: Quickly, I got thrown out of school at 18 for being stupid. I had faced the decision that a lot of young people face which is do I do a manual labor job because I had no experience, no education, no relationships, no money, no nothing or do I start a company. Those were really the only options that I could see. The job of being the lead singer of The Ramones was taken so …

Drew McLellan: Not an option for you.

Christopher L: Not an option. With some encouragement from my dear friend, Jack, he and I started a company. At 21, I found out I was dyslexic so that made my education make sense and overtime, I just started a handful of small businesses in Canada where I grew up and one of the companies ended up getting acquired. At about 27, 28 years old, I found myself in Silicon Valley after being acquired by a software company and I was the head of marketing for a publicly traded NASDAQ listed company.

After that, I did that two more times. Then at age 38, after 20 years in business, I hung up my player’s jersey, if you will, left Silicon Valley, moved up to Tahoe to become a ski bum and while I was doing that, I also did some coaching work. Ultimately, that work led to the formation of a company called Play Bigger with two great friends of mine.

For the last decade or so, Drew, I’ve been a semi-retired, if you will, coach. Coaching chief executives and executive teams in marketing and category design. Then last year, shortly after our book Play Bigger came out, I decided that that was it for me so I hung up my coach’s jersey after 10 years of coaching. Essentially, 20 years as an entrepreneur and CMO, 10 years as a coach and now I’m a very happy podcast host and a guy trying to have a very good time and make a very big difference at the same time.

Drew McLellan: I feel like the shortened version of the book title is a discredit. For a full disclosure, the real book title is “Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets”. That’s really speaks to more of the spirit of the way you coach and talk and teach, don’t you think?

Christopher L: Yeah, absolutely. If you look at it throughout history, and we did, we studied the great innovators overtime. What the book is really about, Drew, is a culmination of … There are four authors, myself and three other very smart guys, and it’s a synthesis of everything we’ve learned and the result of studying the great innovators overtime including doing over half a million dollars worth of big data science research to figure out what happens as new categories get created and we can get into that if you want to.

The spirit of the book is how does a pirate, a dreamer or an innovator go from having an aha about a new company, a new product, a new problem they want to solve, how does she make that into a giant company that matters or what we call a category king. We try to unpack what the legends, like Steve Jobs and Sara Blakely and Henry Ford and Clarence Birdseye, the creator of frozen food and many others, did intuitively in the market that was meaningfully different than what, most of us mere mortals, do and unpack that. In the book, we unveil, if you will, this new management discipline we call category design.

 

Explaining the Concept of Category Design

Drew McLellan: Yeah. What I loved about the book was it was both instructional and inspiring so it fires you up to be different, bigger, bolder but also gives you some real easy to digest direction on how to approach that. Let’s talk a little bit about this idea of category design because that’s the core of the book.

Help the listeners understand what that is and in particular, how that relates to their world which is agency life?

Christopher L: Yeah, it relates directly on multiple …

Drew McLellan: Absolutely.

Christopher L: Yeah, on multiples levels both in terms of how to differentiate your agency so that you can become a category king in your space and I believe that over the next decade, you’re not going to be able to be any kind of a marketing agency, whether you’re a branding agency, a PR agency, social media or whatever, direct marketing or whatever angle you’re helping clients with.  You’re not going to be able to do that without a category design practice.

Drew McLellan: Tell the listeners what you mean by a category design practice?

Christopher L: Sure. At a high level, Drew, the way we think about it is if you talk to most entrepreneurs and innovators and you ask them, “What are the big things you’re doing to be successful?” The essentially say there’s two big levers that they pull: one is a product and the other is company. That is to say most entrepreneurs think they’ve built the world’s greatest new carbodingulator and they want to build a company to deliver that carbodingulator to the world and they fundamentally believe that if they expose the world to the carbodingulator, it’ll all work out and it’ll become …

Drew McLellan: Yeah, who wouldn’t want one?

Christopher L: Exactly. It turns out, when you study the legends, they pull a third lever and that lever is called category. In the book Play Bigger, we describe it as prosecuting the magic triangle: product, company and category. If you’re an agency, of course, service, company and category. The big aha around that is the legends don’t do marketing in the way most of us think about marketing. Most entrepreneurs and innovators make an unconscious choice to position themselves in an existing category and to have, essentially, a feature war or a product or service war with our competitors and fight for share.

We took a step back and said, “Who created these categories? Why do they work the way they do? Who set the rules of the game up this way?” In particular, we looked at how the legendary pirates, dreamers and innovators created their own rule set or, if you will, teach the world how to think about a problem and therefore, a solution in a completely different way and as a result, position themselves as a leader in a new category that they could dominate. That’s really, at the core, what category design is about or a friend of mine who runs a marketing agency called Fathom, Scot Lowry, he says category design is really about how to create your own niche to become nouveau riche.

Drew McLellan: I like that. Always like it when it rhymes. Your ideas made me think about a book I read many years ago by a guy named Joe Calloway called Becoming a Category of One. Again, the same idea of not jumping into a crowded category but creating your own and owning it and defining for everyone else what the rules are.

Christopher L: Yeah. It’s interesting, I had not heard of that book until now. I’ll have to check it out.

 

What “Brand” Means to Agencies

Drew McLellan: Yeah, it’s a branding book so it’s much more narrow and focused and it certainly isn’t data driven like your book is but they’re great companions for one another. From an agency’s point of view, what does that mean?

Because, as you know, I hang out with agency owners all day, every day and they’re super smart people, they hire super smart people but they struggle to differentiate themselves from either the other agency down the street or the other healthcare agency or the other fill in the blank agency. In practical terms, how have you seen this play out in the agency space?

Christopher L: Yeah, it’s a great question. If you hang your shingle out, a lot of agencies will spend a lot of time thinking about their brand, what to name the agency and then all of a visual components of the brand, et cetera, et cetera, all of the powerful things about branding. Of course, that’s incredibly important and many agencies, of course, offer branding services as welL What I would pose it to you is the category makes the brand, not the other way around. I’ll share with you a simple example.

When Pablo Picasso starts his career, he does a lot of beautiful paintings and his career doesn’t take off until he starts painting these squares in unusual ways and he takes the boob and sticks it where the ears should be and takes the nose and sticks it in all these other places. Now, when people first start to look at that work, they say, “Well, that looks like the work of a crazy 8-year-old.” He says, “No, that’s where you’re wrong. That’s the work of a genius.”

You can’t evaluate my work the same way you evaluate, for sake of example, an impressionist painter’s work because this is a new category of art called cubism. For Pablo Picasso to become the most famous painter in the world as he is today, what I would pose to you, Drew, is his greatest design was not any one painting but was a new way of thinking about art, a new distinction, a new category in art called cubism.

As a result, he teaches the world to think about art in a completely new way and most importantly, he teaches the world how to evaluate what is good cubism and not. As a result, he comes the first cubist artist and none of us, unless you’re a real art aficionado, can name the second or third greatest cubist artist in the world. I sure as hell can’t. That’s what Bob Marley did with reggae, that’s what The Ramones did with punk rock.

It turns out that’s what Sarah Blakely did with Spanx, that’s what Clarence Birdseye did with frozen food. If you’re an agency owner, if you just call yourself a marketing agency, you’re blowing an opportunity to position yourself in a completely new and distinctive way and teach people how to think about your agency, particularly in the context of a problem and a solution, the way you want them to. The first question I’d ask is if you want to position yourself in a category that you can dominate in, what’s the problem that you solve and why does that problem matter?

Drew McLellan: Okay. Do you believe that every agency solves a different problem or for most of them, would the problem be the same i.e. all of our clients, at the simplest form, want to sell more stuff, whatever their stuff is?

Christopher L: Yeah, I think we have to think about the specific: who is our prospect, who is our client and what problem are they experiencing. There’s really two kinds of problems, there’s a known problem that gets re-imagined. If you think about the founders of Uber, we all understand the problem called, if you will, personal transportation. They re-imagined the problem in the context of what we have today which is the Cloud and mobile computing and the devices that we have and asked a simple question which is how come I can’t press a button on my iPhone and have a car magically come get me.

By rethinking the problem, they, therefore, re-imagined the solution and once the world sees the problem the way they want them to, ba-bang, the world has to have the solution. Sarah Blakely did the same thing with Spanx. She didn’t call it a girdle 2.0, she didn’t call it underwear, she called it shapewear. In so doing, she differentiated themselves, the core of the word differentiation, of course, is different and most people get different and better confused. She said, “No, no, no, we’re different than a girdle. We’re shapewear.” The rest is history. The big aha particularly for those of us in the marketing world is that categories make brands, not the other way around.

Drew McLellan: Do you think it’s easier to define or design a category if you sell a thing, a tangible thing, rather than a service or vice versa?

Christopher L: No, I think it really doesn’t matter. One of the greatest category designs in the history of the services business was a company about 25 years ago called Cambridge Technology Partners, CTP. It’s in the consulting business for bigger systems work, computer consulting, systems design, software implementations, those things. The number one problem at the time in that industry was the paradigm, the business model was time and materials. The complaint the customer had was, “Well, if you’re charging me time and materials, I don’t know how much this thing could cost, it could cost $2 million, it could cost $250 million, I don’t know.” They were the company, at least, in the tech space who said, “No, we’re going to do fixed time, fixed fee.”

By alleviating the big problem, they became one of the fastest growing services companies in history and as a result, they introduced a whole new paradigm. Now, I don’t know what the percentage is, Drew, you probably know better than I but a huge percentage of the services businesses today are not time and materials, they’re fixed time and fixed fee. CTP was a pioneer in that new category and a result, they experience a tremendous amount of growth. In the case of Uber, they had, what you might call, a market insight and in the case of CTP, they had that same market insight around a problem they saw with the current paradigm. Another kind of insight would be when you identify a problem that nobody knows is a problem.

One of the examples we use in the book Play Bigger, and one of my favorites is, this guy Clarence Birdseye who is the category designer of frozen food. What many of us don’t realize is every product or service that we love exists because some legendary pirate, dreamer or innovator got product, company and category right at the right time. Before Clarence, there were two categories of food. There was food and there was canned food. I could tell you the story if it matters but he saw how to make frozen food work. As a result, he brought a new whole new category of food and in the beginning, to make that work, he evangelizes the problem. For example, if you Google Birdseye Foods and if you look at some of their old ads from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, what you’ll see are things talking about why can’t we have fresh vegetables in February. Well, now you can. He’s teeing up the problem to facilitate the solution if you get what I’m talking about.

 

How Agencies Should Think About Category Design

Drew McLellan: If you think about agency life, you think about the kinds of work that agencies do, I am sure that a lot of people are listening and saying, “Okay, I get it but how do I do it? How do I figure out what categories are possible and how do I design the category that we can be the Picasso of?”

Is there a thought process that you recommend or walk someone through to begin to think about this in a different way? Because it is really about titling your head and looking at things from a new angle, right?

Christopher L: Yeah and I think the first two things to realize are number one, the category makes the brand. For example, in 1999, Dell had an amazing brand. Michael Dell was on the cover of virtually every business magazine you could imagine as a celebrated entrepreneur and the company sold laptops, desktops, servers and storage. Well today, the company’s in trouble, had to do this horrible reverse financial engineering, merged with a bunch of other companies and really nobody gives a shit about Dell Computer anymore. You say …

Drew McLellan: Like what happened?

Christopher L: They have a great brand and they do, what changed are their categories and so the Cloud, social and mobile inflicted, if you will, category violence on laptops, storage, servers. The categories that Dell plays in are much less relevant and there are new categories that are much more relevant and so the value of their brand is a function of the perceived importance of the category. It’s a 180 for a lot of marketers. Listen, I’m a three-time public company CMO.  I think I get to talk about the marketing headset but the company that sets the table is the one that really wins. It sets the rules in the space so how do you do that? There are three questions to ask and then, there’s three ways a services company can differentiate.

The three questions to ask, Drew, are: number one, what category do I solve and can I explain that like I’m a three-year-old or a five-year old? Number two, if I solve that problem perfectly, what would it be called and not in BS business babble, carbodingulator speak but in like something that a normal person would understand and then, the third one is if I solve that problem perfectly and I get 76% of the value of the category which is what accrues to the leader, we can talk about how we got to that number if you like, but some primary research we did for the book, what is my company worth? Those are the three questions to start with before I shift then to how to differentiate, for services companies, any thoughts, comments, questions about that, Drew?

Drew McLellan: Yup, I just want to make sure. You said the first question, you used the word category but I think you meant problem, what is the problem that I am solving or needs to be solved, right?

Christopher L: Yes.

Drew McLellan: Okay, I just want to make sure. I’m tracking you but I want to make sure everybody’s with us. Now, I’m tracking so far so keep going.

Christopher L: Then, the second thing to realize as a services business, there’s only three ways services companies make money. That is they fill what you could call a skill gap, a scale gap or a time gap. What do I mean by that? If you think about the ultimate that skill play that all of us would know in the services business, that’s McKinsey. Marvin Bower, who, for all practical purposes, is the founder of what we could consider McKinsey today is the category designer of management consulting. At the time, he saw a hole in the market.

There were accountants and there were lawyers and business owners would go to them for those services but invariably would ask for business advice as well. He said, “Well, what if we created a purpose built firm that was focused on business advice?” He called that management consulting. Now, a new category of services firm came to light. That’s a classic skill play and a skill play makes money when the world believes that company has more knowledge in a particular area than anyone else. The bigger the perceived skill gap and the more important filling that skill gap is, the higher growth rate and the higher the margins and billing rates, et cetera of a skill play in the services business.

Drew McLellan: Which they seemed to have done quite well by.

Christopher L: Absolutely, legendary. Hall of fame, I’m bowing.

Drew McLellan: Right.

Christopher L: Incredible. Another more recent example of that is Idealab. They created a whole, just like McKinsey did, a whole new category of services firm around, what they call, design thinking. They focused on innovative product design. They became the thought leaders in this new paradigm called design thinking in the product world and they created perception that they had a skill set around product design and design thinking that was way bigger than anyone else. What they said to the world was, “If you’re trying to build really innovative breakthrough products, then you need the experts in design thinking and if you believe that, then you hire Idealab.”

Now, there’s countless Idealab knockoffs who are trying to do similar things but the Idealab founders are the creators of the product design design thinking services business and they used exactly the same play that McKinsey did. The next one is a scale play and at the far end of that spectrum would be UPS or FedEx, if you will, which is I do something so often, so regularly that there is no way that you could do it the way I do it.

It is much more cost effective to have them deliver a package for us than it is for me to do it. An example of a small scale play that I work with every day is my friend Matt Johnson and his partner at Pursuing Results. Pursuing Results is a company that produces podcasts for other people so they are the producers of Legends and Losers. Well, me and my partner at Legends and Losers, we know how to … We think we know anyway, who knows what the world will tell us over time, that we know how to create a great podcast. We don’t know how to plug it into iTunes and Libsyn and SoundCloud and all that stuff.

Drew McLellan: You are preaching to the choir there, my friend.

Christopher L: All that shit, I don’t know any of that. We shoot an episode of Legends and Losers, we use a technology called Zoom to do that, we drop it in the Dropbox file and then magically Pursuing Results turns it into a well-produced podcast. Well, they do that over and over and over again and I don’t want to have to learn how to do that, Colin doesn’t want to learn how to do that and so, they are a scale play around a very tight niche because they do it over and over again and therefore, it’s much more effective for them to do it than for me to do it. Then the third one is you’re either a scale play or a skill play and your client thinks they have that skill or the scale but their resources are otherwise deployed and they have to get that problem solved immediately and so they hire you.

If you’re marketing services company and for example, maybe you put on events as one of the services that you provide for people and you get a call from a client who, maybe, has some event production capability inside. Maybe they want to pull this thing off really fast or maybe they’re doing it at a time frame when their event people are focused on something else. They have the resources to do it on their own, they do some of the stuff on their own but for whatever reason, they need help to do this particular event or campaign or whatever the case maybe and so they’d go outside. My point is you can differentiate and therefore, become the category king as a small services business by figuring out how do we differentiate skill, scale or time. Then, differentiate really hard on that with this thing called the point of view which we can talk about. Does that make sense?

 

What’s More Important: Skill, Scale or Time?

Drew McLellan: It does.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, odds are you’ve heard me mention the AMI peer networks or the Agency Owner Network. What that is really is it’s like a Vistage group or an EO group only everybody around the table owns an agency in a non-competitive market. It’s a membership model. They come together twice a year for two days: two days in the spring and two days in the fall and they work together to share best practices, they show each other their full financials so there’s a lot of accountability, we bring speakers in and we spend a lot of time problem solving around the issues that agency owners are facing. If you’d like to learn more about it, go to Agencymanagementinstitute.com/networks.

In your research, did you find that one of the three of those was more compelling, the skill, scale or time or are they all equally valuable to the marketplace?

Christopher L: The research that we did on this was much more quantitative than qualitative so I don’t have data per se to give you the right answer. What I would tell you, having been in and out of the services business for the better part of 30 years, my personal experience is that most smaller services plays tend to be more on the skills side. However, it is interesting to build a very differentiated scale business. Another example, I’ll give a bit of a plug, is a firm that I am a client of which was started by my friend, Tom Schwab. When we started Legends and Losers, Drew, we did some research and said, “Okay, well, how do you promote a podcast?”

One of the best ways to promote a podcast is to go on another podcast. We found a company who was the category king, that is to say the company designing a whole new service around podcast interviews, and their real differentiation … The company is called Interview Valet and their real differentiation isn’t just that they book you on podcasts but they also help you, you might think of it as monetize your participation in a podcast, pre-impose marketing of being on a podcast. It’s a very micro niche, they call it podcast interview marketing.

They have a process for doing it, it’s highly automated and I hardly ever have to interact with the founders of the company. Their system just works and tells me I’m booked on a show and then, I’d go on the show and et cetera, et cetera, they’re very process oriented and yet, they’re a small business who has scale and some skill, of course, but they’re able to book you on way more podcasts that you could on your own or that a PR firm would because they’re not specialized in it.

I think both can work and there’s a little bit of skill and scale in every small to medium-sized services company but when you take a big step back, Drew, you find that one is more than the other. In both examples, Pursuing Results and Interview Valet, two companies I’m a client of, they have a skill set for sure but really, they focused on how do I do that on a repeatable basis so that it’s super cost effective for them to make money doing it and it’s easy for me as a prospect or a client to buy those. It’s a really interesting way to think about things when you’re a small services company in the marketing world.

Drew McLellan: It’s a challenge. That whole skill and scale issue is a challenge for agencies especially if you’ve been in the business for a long time, you pride yourself. In fact, I hear a lot of agency owners say, “Well, we don’t cookie cutter our solutions for clients. Everything is custom or we start fresh.” That makes scale a little more of a challenge.

Christopher L: If you’re differentiating on skill, then you just want to have super highly trained, super ninja sensei people who can do that. On the flip side, my buddy Matt Johnson at Pursuing Results, I’m friends with the guy who owns the gym that I train at. He’s a wonderful guy and he wanted to do some more social media marketing steps using video and audio and so I connected him with Matt at Pursuing Results, and Matt very quickly said no and I was surprised. He said, “Well, he doesn’t actually want to do a podcast, Chris. He wants to do this other stuff. And theoretically we could help him because we have that expertise but, if you don’t fit into this box, that is to say fit into the system, the process that we built to pump out high-quality podcasts, then we’re not going to do one-offs.” He was very, very disciplined.

That’s more like what a company that’s trying to scale as a service does. A skill business, you walk in and you’re a legendary brand architect and they say, “Okay. Well, so we want to design a legendary brand and we want to think in constrained ways and we want to do this and we want to do that.” You’re sort of hiring, if you will, a mad genius who can think about things in different ways. That is more inherently a skill business that’s deeply difficult to scale, if you will.

 

How to Introduce Category Design to Your Team

Drew McLellan: I buy all of this. How do I actually … In my head, I’m an agency owner. How do I begin to think about this? How do I identify the problem that I can solve? What’s the process of walking myself or my team through this to answer the questions that you have posed?

Christopher L: I mean, there’s a bunch of ways to go about it but here’s the way I would suggest you think about starting. If you think about the current paradigm in your area of service today, your category today, how does the category work? What’s the pricing like, what’s the value proposition, who are the prospects and customers, et cetera, et cetera. What’s the construct of the ecosystem? How does the whole space work?

You say, to quote The Big Lebowski, “This aggression will not stand, man.”  That you want things to be different than the current paradigm in your category. If you were to write down all of the ways in which it exists today and sort of recast those ways as the froms. That is to say, five years from now, you want the current paradigm in your category to be the past and you have a vision for the way you want it to be. Let’s call those the tos.

If you think about it at a simple high level, when the founders of Netflix started, you could write down all of the ways in which you had to do business with Blockbuster at the time. Drive to the video store, try to find a movie, they don’t have the movie, then you’ve got to talk to a kid behind the counter who doesn’t really k