Go Where the Water is Deep.

Go Where the Water is Deep.

As of November, Nike no longer sells directly on Amazon. Nike is not alone. Birkenstock, Louis Vuitton, North Face, Patagonia, Asics, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and Vans do not sell directly on Amazon either. Nestlé Nespresso dominates a huge direct-to-consumer channel and paid Starbucks $7 billion to take over the sale of coffee and capsules for Nespresso machines. The new Disney+ streaming service cut out the middleman and kicked Netflix in the shins on the way out the door.

These smart firms want to own the data and chart their own course into higher lifetime customer value, margin and sustainability in a world where 85-90% of retail purchases are still done in physical stores. Sure, Amazon dominates the online retail world, capturing more than 50% of all online sales, but don’t forget that 85-90% of all retail purchases are still completed in physical stores.

These firms know, in order to survive the Amazon apocalypse, they must shed inefficiencies and middlemen, deliver more value than the competition and delight their customers, so that everyone else is forced to follow in their wake. In business, you’re either making waves or getting splashed in the face, by the way. The deeper the water, the bigger the waves. This has been true for a long time.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the famous hotel chain, made waves when a family friend told him in 1920, “if you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.” A serious student of success stories of Rothschild, Carnegie, Girard, Cooper and many artists, scientists and philosophers, Hilton saw a bigger vision of what might be possible with his first hotel and he started chasing his “blue ocean” strategy before anyone else thought like this.

Two important questions leap to mind as they apply to your practice: (1) Are you sailing in deep or shallow waters? (2) What must you shed and what must you control and leverage in order to reach deeper waters?

What five things must everyone in your market know about you? Do they know them, or are you hiding your unique selling proposition under a bushel? Can patients and parents pass along these “talking triggers” to friends and family, making it easy and a pleasure to refer to your practice?

What five things need to be continued in the business and what five things must you stop doing in order to get to the next level? What five things are you not doing that you must start doing? Who or what seems to keep pushing you back into shallow water? What vendors are tying you down and need to be removed, have their contracts renegotiated or brought in-house?

These are difficult questions. They require time and patience to implement. They force you to zoom out and see a much longer runway. They push the horizon further out and they give you the time and space to attract the proper talent and strategy, in the right market at the right time.

The good news and opportunity, like Hilton realized, is that hardly anyone thinks like this.

Most new clients I meet with want to grow the practice rapidly. Like yesterday. Few possess the ability to take their dreams and vision into much deeper water and then painstakingly pursue the hard work, investment and frustrations that are required in order to implement a “blue ocean” strategy. The most-successful think like Hilton and these other smart firms sailing to deeper water

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.