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Why You Don’t Have To Fear Imitators

There’s a story about World War II that I like. It may or may not be true, but it illustrates a good point.

The Second World War was tremendously costly to the Russians, and as the war went on, they were forced to reach further and further out for conscripts, even toward the Pacific, into Mongolia. They put young Mongolian men onto trains, moved them across the continent, and sent them to fight in Germany.

As they captured territory, the Mongolians entered German homes for the first time, which were unlike anything they’d ever seen. They were particularly fascinated by the elaborate sinks, baths, and toilets in these houses. For a race of herding people who lived in yurts — basic skin tents — it was a marvel to turn a tap and see water pour out.

Figuring this would be a great gift for their families — as the story goes — the warriors tore these appliances off the walls and out of the floors and shipped them back to Mongolia. When they got back, they couldn’t wait to show off what they’d discovered. They turned the taps, and …


The hordes miss the point.

The Mongolians in this tale are a lot like your competitors — and that’s not an insult. The Mongolians were, in their time, an incredible people. They were led by a military genius, Genghis Khan, and innovated technologies such as a postal system that spanned their entire territory.

But in this case, they were dealing with something they just couldn’t comprehend. They saw the effect of a system and mistook it for the cause.

Package your wisdom.

In my entrepreneurial coaching, I encourage business owners to package and sell their wisdom. You take your years of experience, all the trial and error, all the insights, all the unique talent in your organization, and turn this into a seamless process for doing what you do — an operating system, in other words, that supports any kind of value you want to create.

Some people hesitate to put their best out front like this, worried their competitors are going to steal it. But people can’t steal what they can’t see: Even if someone tried to replicate what you do, they would miss all the “backstage” systems, structures, and processes you’ve developed through the years that allow you to provide a simple, satisfying experience for your clients and customers.

In other words, the best they can do is make a nice, useless sink.