Your Unfair Advantage

What do you have that no one else can match?

Welcome to the 10 new faces who signed up for The Change in the past week. Let’s get to it.

Yesterday I spoke to a group of about 30 government employees participating in the Leadership South Dakota government cohort. I shared my story of becoming an entrepreneur, the Lemonly story, a bit about the Lemonly sale, and then talked about what I call Lemonly’s Unfair Advantage

As a speaker, you can always tell what part of your talk resonates most with your audience based on the nodding heads, engaged smiles, and follow-up questions. Without a doubt, the topic of unfair advantage was the most compelling part of our discussion.

In the business context, I define unfair advantage as the thing your company uniquely has that can be used as an advantage in the marketplace. During a big growth spurt for Lemonly, Amy and I asked ourselves this question, wondering if it was the quality of our design work (best-in-class, but still, design is subjective), the quantity of big-time client logos on our website (anyone can put a fancy logo on their site), or something else. 

We finally realized it was neither of those things. Lemonly’s unfair advantage was South Dakota.

The video explains it better than I can in this letter, but the DNA of our home and our people is our unfair advantage: the combination of the lemon bars, the handwritten thank you notes, the small talk about your kids or weekend plans, and most importantly, the commitment to doing what we say we will do and working hard to achieve our clients’ goals. It's the personal touches. The work ethic. The “Midwest nice.” The things that don’t scale.

My favorite part about sharing Lemonly’s unfair advantage is people always tell me, “That’s so smart, what a great business strategy!” But this was never about strategy. I didn’t whiteboard the Lemonly customer experience to increase the bottom line. This was simply how I was raised. My mom said I couldn’t go out and play after my birthday party until I wrote my thank you notes. That stuck with me.

I share this story in today’s letter because, just like companies, people have unfair advantages, too. Ultimately, companies are made up of people, and it’s important to pause and consider what your unfair advantage, your personal edge may be. How can you use it? How can you do more in your area of advantage and less in the areas where you’re generic?

Whatever I do next will involve me capitalizing on my unfair advantage. I want you to be able to do the same. 

Best,
John

The Listen

This week I have my own show, the Leadmore Podcast, with an interesting episode directly related to the topic of this newsletter: change. I sat down with Eric McDonald, founder of DocuTAP and now CEO of CoinLion. Eric sold his company a couple of years ago and took a year off to reset his priorities, spend time with his family, live in a tent for 90 days (yes, we talk about this), and ultimately figure out what’s next for him. The conversation was valuable for me, and I think you’ll enjoy it too.  

The Tool

I’m not the target market for this app, but I stumbled upon it this week, and I love seeing new twists on old things (like a calendar). Saturn is making your calendar more social. They’re clearly going after the high school/college market, but I love the design, emojis (I’m a sucker for emojis), and the reimagining of something boring like a calendar.

The Tweet

There isn’t a more perfect tweet for this newsletter. This idea of career sampling is obviously attractive to me right now. Nat Eliason is a great follow on Twitter, and I’m wondering if my 2022 may look similar to what he describes below.

Next Week

Next week is a big one for me. I’m off to Utah to tackle an endurance event called 29029 Everesting. It’s a 36-hour hike to summit the equivalent altitude (29,029 feet) of Mt. Everest. I’ll try to get the newsletter written and scheduled for next Friday, but if not, follow me on Instagram as I document the journey of climbing a ski mountain 12 times. Hah! Sounds crazy just typing that out.

Have a fantastic weekend!