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How To Build A Legendary Company: Say ‘No’ To Business Models, Forecasting & Projections (And Do This Instead)

It can be terrifying to start a business. Between finding customers, figuring out your core offering, and projecting revenue, you face a lot of uncertainty as an entrepreneur. And that’s before you’ve even gone to market. To be truly legendary, however, you need the courage to be different than everyone else.

Christopher Lochhead

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It can be terrifying to start a business.

Between finding customers, figuring out your core offering, and projecting revenue, you face a lot of uncertainty as an entrepreneur. And that’s before you’ve even gone to market.

To be truly legendary, however, you need the courage to be different than everyone else.

Rejecting the pack mentality takes guts. And not everyone is able to identify a problem that no one’s ever thought of before, let alone believe in themselves to solve it, and why their solution matters, with every fiber of their being.

But that’s where category design comes in. Once you “niche down” by identifying where you can be different, you’re not competing with other companies in your industry. Instead, you’re making your own category.

We’ve already explored legendary entrepreneurs who’ve nailed category design and expertly executed their magic triangles, so this is all about YOU.

Here’s how you can make your business massively successful by niching down.

Building a legendary business means having the courage to step forward into the coming “niche-nado.”

Technology allows us to reach huge, global audiences, and the tools at our disposal will only increase in the months and years ahead.

Podcasts, video-streaming platforms, and newsletter-distribution services are a few technologies that make it possible, nay easier than ever before, to become a personal enterprise by selling your expertise at scale.

You can hit the big time without needing the support of a massive organization or administrative network. In other words, you can niche down.

Remember when small companies actually knew their customers and tailored things to their exact needs? Kevin Maney, the co-author of my book Play Bigger, foresees artificial intelligence facilitating a closer relationship between entrepreneurs and customers.

Once you have a tighter bond with your clients, you can understand and better anticipate their specific needs.

An example of this concept in practice is Stratechery, a media and consulting newsletter that offers daily and weekly analysis of technology giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Created by former marketing and strategy executive Ben Thompson, Stratechery isn’t trying to beat all the sites hawking tech news. Instead of chasing clicks or scoops, Ben decided to appeal to a narrow audience that he intimately understands: industry insiders.

Today, his newsletter is a Silicon Valley must-read in certain executive and investor circles, and he counts subscribers in 30 countries.

Technology enables you to build your personal enterprise and share your expertise with a much larger, yet more niche (read: interested) audience than ever before.

Embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Being legendary isn’t something that happens by accident. You have to make a choice to be legendary.

NBA basketball legend Bill Walton explains this mindset simply and perfectly: “I wanted to great.” And Bill is one of the happiest people I know. In one of his podcast episodes on my show, he told me that his decision to be excellent brought a majestic calmness to his life.

Rather than waiting around for opportunities, you have to have a goal and a plan to achieve it.

Learning about yourself is the first step to figuring out how you can use your unique talents and skills to be legendary, how you can find your niche. By increasing your self-awareness, you’ll be better able to examine the accepted norms and practices of a given industry, and then blaze a trail that verges away from the road well traveled.

Here are some questions to serve as guideposts for your journey:

  • Is the industry you’re seeking to address dominated by companies that are complacent?
  • Is the category you’d like to occupy growing or shrinking?
  • What do people think about the problem you’d like to address?
  • How might new technologies affect your category?

Avoid the very real struggles facing your competitors.

People often have a hard time starting something new.

But the important thing to remember is once you get an idea for how you can niche down, don’t worry about now knowing how to do it.

Instead, just dive in and forge your own path.

Jordan Harbinger, the lawyer turned podcast pioneer, started his show “The Art of Charm” on a whim 11 years ago. He didn’t even have any production experience, but this didn’t matter.

Back then, there were only 800 or so podcasts (rather than ~500,000 we have now). There wasn’t much competition for ear time. Jordan had plenty of room to experiment, and his unique hosting style developed—and resonated with listeners. Rather than approach interviews with a long script of prepared questions or treat guests as his friend, he cast himself in the role of audience advocate.

And that became his differentiator.

So he ditched his day job in law to dedicate himself to defining the self-help category. Today, “The Art of Charm” is widely recognized as one of the first podcasts to build a mass audience, and he has his own eponymous show.

Don’t laugh at me here, but being different is what makes a difference. By being a category designer and niching down, you can achieve a deep-rooted satisfaction knowing that you brought something altogether new to the world.

Fast-forward, and after all this awesomeness happened for Jordan, he and his business partners had a falling out, which meant the Art of Charm was no more. All of a sudden, he had no podcast and no business.

But in less than a year, he created the Jordan Harbinger Show, and now he’s more successful than ever. And he won best of 2018 by Apple podcast, with one of the most popular podcasts— surpassing even his old podcast.

How?

He had established himself so powerfully as a category king in his niche that when his show got taken away from him, and his brand got taken away from him, he was able to reinvent himself again, and in less than a year, be one of the top podcasts on Apple—and build a business today that is even stronger than it was before. In a year, he was able to build a more popular and recognized presence than what he had done in the 11 years prior.

This is yet another powerful example of what can happen when you establish yourself by owning your own a niche. You can have everything taken away from you, and then bam, you can come back even more powerful. Because when the niche wants you, and the category wants you, they must have you.

For more legendary stories from legendary leaders, listen to the Follow Your Different podcast.

Co-Author of “Niche Down” and “Play Bigger” | Podcast “Christopher Lochhead | Follow Your Different” Advisor & Investor to over 50 Silicon Valley startups, entrepreneur, former three-time public company CMO. Mediocre surfer & skier.

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