Is Your Procession Leading You to Success or Oblivion?

Jean Henri Fabre was a French entomologist and author in the 1840’s. He was known for, among other things, an experiment that he conducted with Processionary Caterpillars. This species of insect is known for its instinctual nature where each caterpillar follows the one in front of it, blindly trusting that the procession is going in the right direction. Fabre tested this natural instinct by enticing the leader of the procession to the edge of a round garden pot. Sure enough, the procession continued to follow the follower around the pot for seven days until the caterpillars died from exhaustion or starvation.

I liken Fabre’s experiment to the financial services industry. Like the Processionary Caterpillar we engage in a game of “follow the follower”. Perhaps the heavy regulated nature of our industry stifles our creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Sometimes I think many of us in the industry develop a permanent “tic” from being told so many times by compliance that we can’t do this marketing program or that one so we resign ourselves to following the follower, someone who supposedly has it all figured out and is willing to take the “risk”. Well, do they really have it all figured out?

We obviously have rules and regulations that we have to follow but that still gives us a huge bandwidth in which to promote our businesses. As the late author and legendary radio commentator Earl Nightingale used to say, “You don’t have to compete, just create.” I believe Earl’s message is compelling. Don’t worry about what the competition is doing, start creating your own value proposition. For starters, ask yourself these questions:

What is my “why?” for being in this business? – People will buy your “why I am in the business” before they buy your “what I am offering”.

Develop your Value Proposition. This can include elements of the answers to question #1 but more importantly it is your belief of what distinguishes you from the rest of the field. Clients and prospects should go away from a meeting duly impressed with a keen understanding of who you are and what you do and if someone stopped them on the street and asked what you do, they should be able to emphatically tell them in a couple of sentences.

Be a “thinker” and a “doer”.- It’s great to dream but as legendary management guru Peter Drucker once stated “Plans are good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work”. Put your plan on paper and get to work executing it.

Question things as they are. Sometimes the difference between you and the so-called “expert” is a few more marketing dollars than you have. Always ask the question, “What if?” What if you tried the same approach in a different way or something different altogether?

Borrow and Improve. Don’t feel that you have to invent the next iPad. Take an existing idea and make it better. That still gets you out of the procession!

Be thoughtful of who you are following. Are he, she, they, leading you to where you want to end up or are you just hoping? Think, create, do! That is how you will break free from the procession and lead your business in the direction that you decide where to take it not someone else. Step out of the procession. It could save your business and your life!

By Suzana