Through life and various entrepreneurial adventures, I've learned that there are some things you need to play it safe on. Things such as; who babysits your kids, whether or not to get life insurance, taxes, the character of people you hire, compromising your values and whether to text while driving. These are things you can't afford to be wrong about. At least not without losing a lot of money or causing yourself serious pain.
So while there's some things you can't take risks with in life and in business, there's some opportunities to take some risks that very few small businesses recognize and capitalize on. That's why you'll notice every store at the mall looks the same and every web site looks like a clone; because playing it safe is always the easiest thing to do - especially in business. I tend to agree with the theory that our American Culture is a Corporate Culture. What that means is we like our food in vacuum sealed pouches and as much fluorescent lighting as possible in our workspaces. In other words we like to play it safe. But I have a theory of my own that this lack of personality and plastic corporate culture has made us as a society (and as consumers) desperate for things that are authentic, that don't come in happy meals. Why else are Americans the only people who are always talking about absorbing and immersing themselves in other cultures? Even the people who immigrate to our country don't absorb our culture because outside of sports and Oprah, what is there of substance to absorb? Our American culture is one of cubicles, rush hour traffic, 30 minute lunches and fast food. By playing it safe with your business you'll always be, to borrow a line from one of my favorite movies, the guy in the PG-13 movie that everybody roots for which isn't a necessarily a bad thing.
The problem with being that guy or gal in the business world is that every industry has a glut of those middle of the pack businesses. They have the generic business name and the very corporate web site that looks like it came straight from the Accenture or Price Waterhouse Cooper school of design. No disrespect, but those companies keep their brands intentionally bland because they have to appeal to every corporation in the world and convey the highest level of professionalism. Your coffee shop? Not so much. You can afford to put your personality all over your business and while you may repel some people, you'll also attract like minded individuals who are more likely to be loyal, repeat customers.
Now what I'm NOT saying is to be unprofessional, drop f-bombs on your blog or make your web site look like an affliction tee popped a squat on it. I'm just saying you can put your personality and your fingerprints on your business and when you do that people will at least have an opinion about what you're doing. You'll be the guy (or gal) from the rated R movie that everybody is not sure whether they like you or not but they can't look away either. Ok enough with the Swingers references but you get the picture (if you don't, watch this clip and you'll understand - skip to the 1:10 mark).
I'll give you an example on how this principle applied to us at Bizroids. As anyone who's familiar with building web sites knows, one of the toughest things to decide on when you're building a web site for your business is a domain name. See we were been working on the Bizroids internet marketing platform but before we launched the platform we were thinking of how to market this product (which we believe to be hands down, the most robust and affordable platform in the industry:)) and we knew branding was going to be critical. Because easy domain names like Internet Software or Internet Marketing Platform are registered all the way down to the dreaded .biz level, business owners like me have to get creative. That's why companies make up words out of thin air (like twitter, ning, tumblr) - because the domain names are available! What a novel premise! Well, we were no different. We threw around long tail keywords like best-internet-marketing-software.net. You get the picture. We were playing it safe. We were going to build a very predictable brand around a very predictable name. Then I read the book Blink! by Malcolm Gladwell which changed - or I should say reinforced some longstanding opinions I've had.
Gladwell's thesis is essentially that the decisions or opinions that are a product of the group consensus are typically low quality opinions and unsuccessful decisions. Rather, when we trust our gut and make decisions based on our instincts and what WE think is cool, the results are much better. It's a compelling read and I found it empowering. I just kept thinking that as a business owner you're more than likely going to fail no matter what you do but wouldn't you rather fail trying to build a business that was a reflection of you?
So that's how I came up with Bizroids. I liked it. I thought (and still think) it was memorable. It's an easy elevator pitch. People get it. No, I'm not a juicehead, I've never done drugs in my life and when I go to the gym I spend the bulk of my time shooting hoops instead of pumping iron. I know it's a slightly controversial name. It may even offend some people. Who knows, we might even lose a client over it eventually. But I believe (and I could be wrong) that this is a name people will remember and the logo will stick with you. At least as much a logo can stick with you. So if you're offended by the name Bizroids, or even by the needle in the logo, just know the intent is not to offend (confession; we had a few good laughs when friends suggested slogans like "Bizroids: what Jose Conseco would use if he had a web site" or "Bizroids: Barry Bonds has admitted to congress that he indeed has been using us for years") but rather to step out of the shiny fluorescent cubicle and take a risk. Maybe we'll fail because of this risk. I doubt it, but it's possible. I know this though; when you take risks and win (while being true to yourself and your personality to boot) there's no sweeter victory.