The phone isn’t ringing and the few leads you had lined up haven’t quite materialised, so you do what every person on the planet does. You Google what’s wrong. Yup, I think even thoraxic surgeons probably have an interesting Google search history!
Unless you are one of those once in a generation mind melting genius types, chances are it’s the normal blip. You know, the bit in the film where it looks like the plane isn’t going to make it and falls off the edge of the cliff, then soars once you’ve all fainted with the drama of the story. You are going through that bit.
The first thing you come across is a big ego deflator, your market is saturated and you need to ‘niche it down’ and ‘find your authentic voice’. Even worse, it’s true. Every article and piece of advice will tell you that you need to think about what makes you different from everyone else in the field. And you can’t, you just love what you do and are pretty darned good at it. There are 8 billion of us on this spinning ball of dirt hurtling through space. Being unique is tough and everything is saturated. So how do you find that elusive niche market? How do you find your authenticity in a saturated market?
Well, I am going to start by retelling a story. I was watching a wonderful talk given by John Green (here’s the link to the full talk http://www.ted.com/playlists/300/the_love_of_lifelong_learning ). In it he relates a story where there are two cartographers who placed a fictional small town somewhere in their map to prove it was their map. This way they would know if someone stole their map and passed it off as their own. An early form of copywriting if you will! The fictional town they placed in their map was called Agloe in New York, a composite of their names. A map did indeed appear some time later with Agloe at the same crossroads on the map and the two men prepared to sue. However, the man who produced the second map declared that actually Agloe did indeed exist. Once it was printed on the map, people had travelled to see it and over time had settled there and created a small community.
In other words, authenticity isn’t always something that is present from the beginning and utterly true. Just because your Great-Great-Great Grandmammy didn’t invent that special sauce that packs out your restaurant, doesn’t mean you are not authentic. You may have grafted in mediocrity, like the rest of us, to begin with. Do not panic that the authentic brand of your company or business is not quite present yet. Work hard, investigate and hone those skills with hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of others in your field. Over time you will discover Agloe New York is real, and you have something authentic through patience and skill rather than the over rated epiphanies people pretend they have. I may be relatively new to the business world, but one of the first lessons I learned was that overnight successes took years to perfect. Just be honest, fair to your clients and don’t forget to be equally fair to yourself.