Over half of all small businesses fail in the first three years.  I’m sure you’ve heard that statistic before.  It’s difficult starting and growing a successful small business.  It’s even tougher in today’s challenging economy.  I talk to business owners every week who tell me how they’re struggling to keep their doors open. Yet I also discover businesses that are soaring to success despite the challenges they face.  What makes the difference? Successful business owners have found their Cherry Garcia.

I’m not literally talking about ice cream, but rather the unique idea that makes a business stand apart from its competition. Consider the mind-boggling, creative flavors Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen introduced to the market when they launched their ice cream business some 30 years ago.  These two friends who met in junior high school weren’t having much luck building a traditional career.  Although neither one knew anything about starting a business, they both knew they loved ice cream.  So they split the cost of a $5.00 correspondence course on ice cream making and then leased an old gas station building in Burlington, Vermont, where they opened for business in May 1978.

The Ben & Jerry story could have ended right there in Burlington.  Let’s assume they followed the path of most businesses and dished up traditional, tried and true flavors.  Their tasty treats might have included the standards — vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, maybe even a little butter pecan.  Perhaps their little business would have enjoyed some success. Maybe they’d have eventually opened a few additional locations, but most likely they wouldn’t have ever become a major hit in the market.

But instead of following the traditional path, the dynamic duo got creative.  Using an old fashioned ice cream freezer, they churned out funky flavors chock full of all kinds of goodies.  Customers stood in lines stretching out the door clamoring for a taste of the delicious new treat.  No other ice creamery offered anything like Ben & Jerry’s.

When it came time to mass produce their fun flavors, Ben and Jerry hit a road block that might have halted their climb to success. Experts and engineers told them that the Cherry Garcia recipe had too many ingredients infused into the base flavor; therefore, it would be impossible to produce.  Undaunted, the two refused to hear the word impossible.  Their team worked until they devised a system to bring the flavor to market.  In other words, they made the impossible, possible.

So when I see small business owners struggling to succeed I ask, “What’s your Cherry Garcia?”  What are you bringing to the market that your customers can’t get anywhere else?  And are you allowing yourself to accept limitations without challenging the status quo? Great businesses find their uniqueness, and they defy boundaries.

What is the Cherry Garcia for your small business? How has it helped you stand apart from your competition?

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.