There was once a bar unique amongst others in Melbourne – Le Monde.
For a start it was a bar. The drinking culture in the old days was pubs and nightclubs; barns for drinking beer and getting messy. I spent many a happy night drinking, dancing and indulging in bad pickup lines. I was an expert at the bad pickup lines.
Le Monde was a tiny little place, dark and sleek it bought a European sensibility to the top end of the city.
I was lucky enough to work at Le Monde for a 6 months, the 7am to 12pm shift. It was perfect for a relaxing shift with great coffee followed by a knock-off Miller beer. I was told to order the Miller because it was the most expensive beer in the bar.
Now the same building houses a generic fast food outlet.
Once the canny business folk saw how successful Le Monde was the building next to Le Monde was renovated to create identical small bar spaces. Soon there were many small European style bars in the top end of the city. And Le Monde closed. What once was unique had become the norm.
Every innovator faces this problem. A visionary creates a new business from the spark of an idea, courage and a firm belief in the market need for something new, something amazing.
Then, should the idea be successful, the new space is populated with similar ideas all competing to do something better, something unique but still kinda the same. And the new market is commoditised.
What was once visionary is seen as old fashioned, boring.
Being a leader and innovator is hard. The risk is that having created a business in a clear fresh space, the innovator stops evolving and trying new things. They start to believe in what they tell themselves rather than what the market is telling them. Small signs are ignored; it may be declining sales, shorter visits, less buzz. They convince themselves that they are right, that they are still innovative in a clouded market.
And their copy-cat competitors win. They are expert observers of the market, of the strange dynamic between human desire and greed, and are geared to capitalise on every opportunity.
So the answer in my view is to never believe what you tell yourself but seek answers from your customers, the market and your competitors.
After all, being the local blacksmith was once a lucrative trade.