When you are taking a look at your competitors this year — and you should be doing this at least once a year — keep an eye out for signs of unusual activity. New marketing and product trends begin with little eruptions here and there. They are seldom widespread — and they almost never begin with the industry leaders.
What happens is this: Everyone in the industry is struggling with the same sort of problems and challenges and trying to overcome them in various ways. Sooner or later, someone will come up with a breakthrough idea. And it will generally take a few years — two, three, even four or five years — for that idea to become commonplace.
If you can recognize and get in on the early stages of such trends, your sales and profitability will soar. I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in breakthroughs like this three times in my career — and, all three times, the results were amazing.
This is what Ray Kroc did when, while working as a milkshake-machine vendor back in the early ’60s, he noticed that one of his customers — a restaurant in San Bernardino, California — was using eight machines for every one that his other customers were using. He visited the restaurant to see what was going on — and that’s how he met the McDonald brothers. The rest, as they say, is history.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]