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Much of this book is about those Category of One companies that exist right under our noses: companies not that different from yours and mine that have created something really special because of the way they do what they do. There are many books on the shelves about the usual suspects: The Southwest Airlines success stories and I relate some of those stories in this book that we all know so well are inspiring, to be sure. What works for the small, person company is precisely the same as what works for the billion-dollar corporation.

Becoming a Category of One company begins with a conscious decision. Every company that I studied had the experience of a moment of truth. For some, it was a fish-or-cut-bait experience, in which they decided either to take their business to that next level of performance or close the doors and do something else. Each of these extraordinary companies also has a clear sense of who they are. They all define themselves, not in terms of what they sell, but in terms of what the point is for their employees, stakeholders, and customers. The drive to serve, accomplish, and achieve is much more powerful than the drive to simply make more money or sell more widgets.

All of the Category of One people I met and spoke with have a keen sense of competition, and every one was a savvy businessperson. But they all had a larger purpose that was tied to the significance of what they were doing. The willingness to let go of what used to work is, for many of us, the most daunting challenge of all.

Category of One companies not only let go of what got them there, they throw it out the door regularly to make room for what will work next. The trap of past success is a seductive, almost irresistible force. Category of One leaders constantly encourage their employees to look for the next great idea, even if it is met initially with derision and criticism. It takes real courage to innovate and real leadership to create the space for innovation to take place. Your customers see you as a commodity, just as they see every other business out there. Only when you differentiate yourself in a clear and powerful way can you become a Category of One company.

Even quality companies like BMW have learned that quality is no longer the differentiator it once was. Your brand is everything. Your brand is who you are, what you promise, and your ability and willingness to keep that promise. Every Category of One company is dedicated, throughout the organization, to building, communicating, and protecting the brand.

Becoming a Category of One

Your brand resides in the minds of your customers and potential customers. Across all industry and professional lines, great companies large and small are driven by a focus on one factor: the customer. The three rules that Category of One companies all follow are:. To take care of the customer may seem like the oldest business philosophy in the world, and indeed it may be, but what I found amazing is how few companies actually base their businesses on that philosophy. Category of One companies, without exception, are dedicated to winning and keeping loyal customers for life.

Your customers compare you to everybody, not just the other companies that do what you do.

Sourena Vasseghi Interviews Joe Calloway

Category of One companies look for ways to improve by benchmarking the entire marketplace, not just their own defined category of business. A bank might find its next best idea from what the hospital down the street is doing with customer relations. What do you do that any customer will plainly see and say, Okay. I choose you. Too many companies get caught in the trap of looking for what amounts to a gimmick.

The truth is that the most powerful tiebreaker is to simply do your job extremely well with every customer, every single time. Consistency of performance can be the most powerful differentiator of all. The people at Tractor Supply Company have taken the oldest, most basic business principles in the world and made them the foundation for a company that succeeds by any standard. The loyalty of their customers is legendary, and the spirit of their employees is inspiring. The lessons on leadership that Joe Scarlett and Jim Wright can teach us through their beliefs, ideals, and everyday actions are among the most meaningful that I have ever experienced.

It has been my great pleasure to watch Tractor Supply Company grow and prosper for 25 years. I thank them for their willingness to share their principles of success in this book.

Becoming a Category of One

Finally, I invited an extraordinary group of business experts, best-selling authors, and CEOs to give me their thoughts on what it will take to be a Category of One performer in the future. From a Gen Y expert that happens to be a Gen Y-er himself to the CEO of a most remarkable bank, they all offer unique perspectives on how to create success in the marketplace of tomorrow.

Writing this book has been a humbling and deeply satisfying experience. My hope is that this book is helpful to you and your business in Becoming a Category of One. The movie Apollo 13 opens with a gathering of astronauts at the home of Jim and Marilyn Lovell to watch the live television broadcast of an incredible event.

Their fellow astronaut, Neal Armstrong, is about to become the first human being to set foot on the moon. There is a light-hearted, party atmosphere among the group. Even Cronkite, the veteran newsman with years of covering historic world events, seems nearly overwhelmed with the magnitude of the moment.


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Shortly after the broadcast, the party breaks up and everyone goes their separate ways. Jim Lovell, who is played by Tom Hanks, is now alone with his wife Marilyn in their backyard. Looking up at the moon, Lovell says, From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. We just decided to go.

Becoming a category of one

Deciding to go is the first step on the journey to becoming a Category of One. Most companies never decide to go. They never make the decision to become extraordinary. The decision they make is to talk about becoming extraordinary or to have meetings about becoming extraordinary or to write mission statements about becoming extraordinary.

Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison

But they never decide to go, that is, make the commitment that takes hold, becomes real, and creates a new level of success. The decision can take many forms. It might be a decision that is initially made by one person, maybe the CEO of the company. But at some point, most extraordinary companies make a clearly defined decision to go. It literally comes down to a moment of truth. Then, to sustain their success, they must recommit to that decision again and again.

Category of One companies can almost always point to a very specific time when they made a decision to go. One night some of us were talking at dinner about the future and what we hoped to achieve, and, all of a sudden, we just looked at each other and decided to do things differently. Sometimes the seeds for the decision to pursue greatness are planted from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. Rather than the top people in an organization making the decision to go, their job might best be seen as creating a culture and an environment that leads everyone in the organization to see opportunities for growth and then act on them.

When a major decision to go comes from the top down, then it must be thoughtfully communicated within the organization and given the chance to gain the support of the employees. Almost every extraordinary company can point to a very specific moment when the decision was made to be great. The implementation of that decision is a continuing process, but the decision itself is a very clearly defined and identifiable event. Very often, great companies become even greater when a crisis forces the decision to go. For extraordinary companies, a crisis can thin the herd and force the competition to find another line of work.

The historic economic meltdown of gave us an almost limitless supply of practical business lessons.

Perhaps the most impactful of those lessons is that there can be tremendous value in a crisis. You have to do something and do it now. They turn left, then right, then freeze. Only the fast reflexes of the car driver can save the day. Survival requires action. Hard times bring out the motivational slogans. One of the most popular slogans in times of recession is Recession? What recession? I refuse to participate in the recession. I understand the idea behind that line of thinking. You should not only participate in a recession but do it with the pedal to the medal.

Six hundred of the top leaders of this company had gathered to plot their course of action in the face of a monumental economic downturn. Revised and updated to remain relevant to today's market conditions and new innovations A new edition of the bestselling title from the author of Indispensable and Work Like You're Showing Off Today's struggling economy puts even greater importance on the theory and practice of business differentiation This edition includes 20 percent new material; if you liked the original edition, you'll love this new Second Edition Reliable, proven advice that works for businesses of any size in any industry Now more than ever, you have to differentiate your business from the competition to succeed.