Ordinary Is No Longer an Option, Business Strategist Warns

July 14, 2022 • Rhonda Smith

"What do you deliver that only you can deliver?"

The most effective business leaders today are open to new ideas, new sources of information and new voices, the co-founder of business magazine Fast Company said during his keynote speech at the 2022 BOMA International Conference & Expo.

“We are living at a time when ordinary is not an option,” Bill Taylor said, adding that business strategy starts with originality. This is especially the case in an era of what he called “non-stop disruption and hyper-competition.” And nowhere is that disruption more evident than in the world of commercial real estate, where a pre-2020 business model will no longer translate into success in a world reshaped by COVID-19.

“The goal is no longer to be the best at what lots of other people already do,” Taylor said. “It’s to be the only one who does what you do. What do you deliver that only you can deliver?” 

Taylor, who also has written several books focused on creativity, leadership and change, said today’s leaders must be nimble and know:

  • How to stand for something extraordinary in a world of competition and constant change.
  • The importance of the connection between who you are and how you lead
  • That your expertise in your field shouldn't limit how you imagine your future. In other words, don't fall into what he calls the "the paradox of expertise."

Leaders should ask themselves what they are prepared to do that other organizations either can’t or will not do. “Those are the kinds of questions that are really going to drive your future performance and success,” Taylor said.

Citing reasons not to change within an organization or an industry is shortsighted, Taylor warned, and a serious faux pas in the business world. 

“Change begins when people and organizations finally conclude that the risk of trying something new is lower than the cost of clinging to what’s worked in the past,” Taylor said. 

He drove home his point with a delightful description of the Savannah Bananas, a minor league baseball team in Georgia owned by Jesse Cole.

Taylor said Cole is changing the rules of the game and attracting media attention from coast to coast, starting with his unique attire: Cole wears a yellow tuxedo to every Savannah Bananas game.

The ball players also wear yellow uniforms when they’re not donning costumes to ensure that they connect with thousands of fans, who flock to their games from Georgia and other states.

“Since [Cole] has bought the team, they have sold out every seat in the 4,000-seat stadium,” Taylor said. “And there’s a long waiting list now.”

Cole’s actions reflect four lessons on competition, Taylor explained:

1. A winning strategy begins with originality. “[Cole] completely reinvented the business model,” Taylor said. “Tickets are all-inclusive. It is meant to be a simple, convenient night out free of all the hidden fees.” Cole didn’t want anything to interfere with the relationship between the team and its fans, Taylor said.

2. Even the most familiar product can be transformed into an unforgettable experience. The team’s games have a two-hour time limit and also feature unique off-the-field entertainment, such as the Banana Nanas, a dance team composed of women who are at least 65 years old.

3. Get everyone in on the act. “Players are an incredible part of the performance,” he said. “They do singalongs and dances and play several games wearing kilts. Spectators participate as well.”

4. Even the most creative, organized people must keep pushing the limits of innovation. “It really is an exercise in re-imagining one of the oldest, stodgiest, most troubled industries in America right now,” Taylor said.

Taylor challenged those in the audience to apply these lessons when re-imagining commercial real estate as an industry leader.

“Can you look at an industry you’ve been a part of for the last 25 years and somehow look at it as if you’ve never seen it before? And, with that fresh set of eyes, develop a whole new line of sight for the future?”

If the Savannah Bananas are any indication, absolutely.

Be sure to read the other story in this series, "Taking Talent Management, DEI Efforts to the Next Level."