Ordinary, extraordinary? 10 differences

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Why are so many direct marketing companies performing at half 
potential? And why are only a handful performing at or above their 
potential? What makes the difference?
The first thing I see is passion. Top performers have a passion for 
what they do that most of us only dream about. These people love 
business and they love their business. In one way, they are truly 
fortunate. Passion of that kind is rare, and very successful people 
invariably possess it to extremes. In another way, they are cursed. 
They can never get away from that passion and their lives are shaped 
by it almost totally and almost constantly.
Because passionate business owners and leaders are mono-focused on 
the business, they often re-invent themselves and the business to 
ensure they remain at the leading edges. Others enjoy the familiar 
groove, the familiar niche, the same familiar SICs. They maintain the 
past and the present; the passionate ones create the future. And that 
is the difference: maintain or create?
The second thing I see is the use of money. The passionate creators 
spend money; the maintainers take the money out of the business and 
make it earn every step of its undistinguished way. All investment 
has to be "self-funding." The exceptional business knows the value of 
talent, technology, facilities, investment prospecting, advanced 
logistics and integrated enterprise operating systems. The 
unexceptional companies have only enough talent, technology, 
facilities, prospecting, logistics and operating systems to get by 
without having to invest anything in the future. Consequently, they 
often don't have one.
The third thing I see is ideas. The exceptional owners surround 
themselves with more ideas than they can ever accomplish. But they 
have options. The average company spends a lot of time pushing ideas 
away, mostly because they require investment, but also because they 
might be dangerous, especially if they aren't the owner's idea. All 
of the original ideas are monopolized in the marketplace by the 
exceptional companies; the average companies haven't had an original 
idea since the first one that got them their niche.
The fourth thing I see is people. The extraordinary company has 
extraordinary people and all of them are also passionate. The average 
company has average people and none of them are passionate. 
Extraordinary attracts extraordinary; average attracts average. And 
when average companies inadvertently attract an extraordinary person, 
the result is painful and short-lived.
The fifth thing I see is attention to basics. While leading in 
innovation, technology and ideas, the extraordinary company is also 
totally grounded in and proficient with all the direct marketing 
basics. They know the numbers off the top of their heads - and they 
are accurate numbers. The average companies are struggling to cover 
or discover the basics. They are employing entry-level people to 
manage the circulation plan because they are cheaper and all you have 
to do is tell Abacus what it is you want and they do everything. The 
extraordinary company is running circles around its competitors in 
every channel because it has a seasoned, confident and proven 
circulation pro working with a seasoned, confident and proven broker 
and everybody's feet are held to the fire for performance and 
productivity. And the extraordinary company doesn't ask for a 
discount; in fact, it often pays its broker a higher commission for 
delivering higher prospecting performance.
The sixth thing I see is elegance. The extraordinary company has an 
elegance of mind as well as an elegance of style. The owner wears 
custom-made or designer clothing and has a custom analytic and 
perceptive mind. The restrooms and the minds are well-decorated and 
fully furnished, one with choices of soaps and linen towels, the 
other with concepts and open-minded reasoning. The warehouse and the 
personality are neat, orderly, clean, automated and totally 
organized. These people are its business; the business mirrors the 
person. And the management team in these extraordinary companies 
lives that elegance. The average company is, well, average. Things 
are a little dusty, a bit wrinkled.
The seventh thing I see is boldness. The extraordinary companies are 
fearless; the average companies are fearful. One attacks the future; 
one defends the past. One is comfortable with challenge and the 
unknown; one is comfortable with only the known and what once worked. 
One leads; one follows. One takes risks; one is riskless.
The eighth thing I see is inclusion. The extraordinary company 
includes all its trusted advisors in its research and decision-making 
processes. The conference room for a strategy session may have 10 or 
15 vendors, suppliers and consultants, all charged with the 
objective, "Help us leverage what we do well to become a $1 billion 
company." The average company doesn't trust its vendors; bends them 
for another 2 percent; spreads the business among as many as possible 
to assure the lowest possible price  and often lays failure at the 
feet of the vendor.
The ninth thing I see is rule breaking. The extraordinary companies 
do almost everything differently than they should; they disregard 
what should be for what is. While attending to the direct marketing 
basics and truth, they also only believe what the customer tells 
them. And if what the customer wants requires breaking direct 
marketing conventional wisdom, out goes the conventional wisdom. The 
average company plays by the rules, takes no chances, hasn't talked 
to a customer in years. Chiseled above the door is the time-worn 
motto: Status Quo.
The final thing I see is questioning. The extraordinary owner or 
leader questions everyone he or she comes into contact with. These 
are not accuracy questions, rather questions about what is new, how 
others are changing pagination, what landing pages are working, 
whether video is getting prospecting response in search hits, how 
much fall-off in pay per click there was in October, whether long 
term response is eroding in co-ops . . . and a thousand questions 
aimed at people with knowledge that can be used. The average company 
asks few questions and usually doesn't know what questions to ask.

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