“Our mission has always been to change how America thinks about beer.” Jim Koch, Founder of The Boston Beer Company, now the largest American-owned brewery.
Jim Koch clearly laid out his vision for The Boston Beer Company to me in a discussion we had a few months ago. Reading these words belies the power of this simple statement. Upon reflection, the success of his company is a function of all the things he didn’t say.
How many ways could Jim have laid out the wrong vision for his company? What if he had said, “Our mission is to create the best beer in America”? Or, “to show American beer drinkers that you can have full-bodied, interesting beer, with ingredients renowned the world-over”? The company would have taken a different direction. These statements above reflect a need to pursue perfection in an introspective sense. But listen again to what Jim said: he set out to change how Americans think about beer. This is an extrovert’s rallying cry, an outwardly focused statement that says, “no matter what the preconceptions and barriers in our way, we’re going to do something so profound, so important, that it will change how you think.” This isn’t about us – it’s about you. The market is littered with companies that set out to be the “best” – and I’m sure they succeeded, in their own opinions, and failed for various other reasons.
When you set out to be something, you tend to focus on one thing. We want to be the best at this, we want to be known for this feature or benefit. Talk to a number of people who have taken their dream to a few hundred million dollars in revenue and you’ll notice something else: it’s never about one thing. It’s about several things – two, or sometimes three functional areas that together deliver on an outwardly focused idea. Successful companies change how people think about something. As Eric Ryan, co-founder of detergent brand Method told me, “If we had just focused on one thing, the other guys would have figured us out long ago.”
. We want to change how the world thinks about __________. Fill in the blank.
. In order to do this, what would you have to do? It isn’t a simple, one word answer, is it?
. If you had just set out to do the first thing on your list, would you have accomplished your “change the world” goal?
When you set out to change how the world thinks, you find that you’ve signed up for more than you may have originally thought. Shawn White could have set out to be the world’s best snowboarder and he could have achieved his dream without ever going to the Olympics. To change how the world thinks about his sport, he needed to not only perform on a world stage, but be an active and visible spokesperson, a positive force for the next generation and also take an active role in guiding how the equipment for his sport evolves.
When you set out to change the other person’s opinion, you take on an entirely different mindset than when you merely set out to satisfy your own goal. It’s never about one thing. The only animal that relies on one primary weapon is the narwhal – and once you get past the tip, it’s all soft underbelly.