“Differentiation factor” is a sexy business term that gets thrown around at networking events and MBA classrooms.  It’s a verbose way of asking what makes you different?  There are literally hundreds of thousands of sandwich shops in the US – in my world – there are gymnasiums and training centers in every city on every block.  Capitalism has given customers choice. So why choose you?

I’m a huge believer that entrepreneurs and small business owners MUST know what makes them special. What do you well?

What differentiates you from your competitors can literally be anything: location, branding, product design, price, hours of operation, specificity of service, variety of service, on and on and on.  What’s important is that you clearly identify what it is. You need to make sure you know what it is and you need to make sure your employees know what it is. What makes you special isn’t a secret and can’t be a secret.  You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. To the contrary , I’d argue it must be talked about openly and publicly. Post it on the wall and brag about it on your website.

In my case, we do 4 things different than anyone else in the gymnastics market within San Diego.

  1. Offer progressive and developmental Parkour Classes
  2. Offer a successful Boys Competitive Gymnastics Program
  3. Offer Adult Classes
  4. And we do this in a high energy, loud, and intense environment.

Now this isn’t all we do.  We offer “Mom and Me” classes, cheer leading, recreational gymnastics, etc. However, the 4 numbered above are what we absolutely dominate in San Diego.  We know this. We acknowledge this. And we work very hard to never slip in any of those areas.

And therein lies my second point.

Don’t forget what you do well.

Those 4 pay the bills. Those 4 make us successful. If we begin to slide in any of those 4 areas, we begin to lose who we are and what differentiates us from the YMCA down the street.

I took aside my entire Parkour staff last week to remind them of how important they are to the success of the entire gym. I felt they were getting complacent, I felt they were coasting, I felt like they weren’t giving me their best. My meeting with them wasn’t so much a scolding but a reminding of why they are so important.  Their “department” is more important than other “departments.” They don’t have the same luxuries as other employees with other jobs.  Presented in the right way, it’s empowering – at least that’s my goal.

So to recap. Know what you do well. Identify it, post it, talk about it, and – above all – never forget it.