Stand For Something Or Die

In Paris, there are 40,000 restaurants.

Jérôme was one of my former colleagues at a tech startup where he was the VP of sales.

He had a side job. He was also a food critic.

Our team would always ask him to share his list of “hidden gem restaurants,” and he’d sometimes pull some strings to get us reservations to places where you’d never be able to get in without calling 2 months in advance.

One day, I was having lunch with him at his favorite Parisian bistro. Rustic chairs, checkered tablecloth, rude waiter; the real French deal. I asked: “How did a place like this make it to the top of your list?”

“As a food critic, you look at three things,” said Jérôme, while finishing to chew on a piece of duck confit. “Food, service, environment. But most importantly, you look at the coherence between those three things. This tells you what the restaurant stands for.”

Fine dining or comfort food, the number one criteria was that the restaurant owner believed in something authentic and unique.

For that reason, a mom-and-pop restaurant fully committed to a modern twist on traditional dishes could rank higher in his mind than a fine-dining spot with amazing food but little personality.

For Jérôme, the whole experience should demonstrate that the chef, the staff, and everything else stood for something. That’s what would make the whole experience memorable to him.

That day, I learned how restaurants stand out in a super-crowded market. They differentiate first and foremost with a point of view (POV) on how they treat guests overall.

All companies, not just restaurants, differentiate first and foremost with a POV.

Over the years, I witnessed this over and over.

What’s a POV?

Here is what I have to say for now:

  • A point of view is how you believe your customer’s needs should be met.
  • It is what you and your business stand for in the world.
  • A good point of view rejects an old way of thinking to embrace a new idea, a new game, a new way of looking at a situation.
  • It moves you out of the mass of indefinite businesses and makes your brand come across as assertive.
  • It should be clear, certain, and consistent.
  • It is not technology or features. These are the expression of your POV. While your POV should remain stable, your product may evolve, just like a restaurant's menu that only serves organic food.
  • It is not a bunch of jargon and buzzwords. “Our unique and proprietary cutting-edge cloud-based cab-tracking technology” is not a POV. “You should be able to easily and safely get a ride home in a clean taxi, and for a fair price” is a POV.
  • It is not about how you’re better than your competitors. It is about what you do differently for your customers.
  • Therefore, it should help your customers easily understand why they should choose your product or service. That’s because it makes your company… stand out.

If you want your business to survive and thrive, you need a POV.

Here is why:

1 - Developing a point of view makes you different. Different makes it easier for people to chose you. The stronger the contrast, the better. Choosing between Tacos or Ice Cream is easier than choosing between Ben & Jerry's vs. Haagen Dazs.

2 - Legendary marketers market the POV first, not the product. As an example, I’ll serve you the overused but universal example of Steve Jobs with the 1984 commercial “Think Different”. It was not about the computer, but first, why you should get one: the freedom to create.

3 - Before they can even consider buying your product or service, people have to believe in the opportunity that your product or service allows them to access. If you want people to buy bibles, first they have to be Christians.

4 - Once people subscribe to the way you look at things, they will be interested in the solution (product/service) you have for sale.

5 - When someone has a point of view on your situation, they help you reframe it and clarify it. That’s when you start believing that this person must have a meaningful solution for you.


Let’s get back to my restaurant analogy:

Chipotle has a point of view. Taco time does not.

Mod Pizza has a point of view. Domino’s does not.

Canlis in Seattle has a point of view for sure.

Last but not least.

Have you noticed how in any great story, the main character goes through an experience that changes her perspective and ultimately transforms her identity?

In the end, the hero becomes an advocate for a new point of view.

In The Hunger Games, though initially reluctant, Katniss Everdeen embraces her status as a leader--not just within the games but also for her followers more generally.

Her path to success is a point of view about what strong leadership should look like in a world where democracy is endangered. Our current world, by the way.

As business leaders, we all want to rush and sell a solution. That’s what we were taught. We’re so proud of the product we spent so much effort building that nothing else is more important than immediately telling everything about it.

There is be a better path forward in starting by selling a new understanding of the world your customer lives in.

In that regard, storytelling is point-of-view-selling, and it should come first.

That’s my POV.

In Paris, there are 40,000 restaurants, and they were able to fully reopen early last month. Maybe not all of them, but most survived. Jérôme got his side-job back.

Some good POV must be helping there.

Bon appétit!


Why Students Should Have Mental Health Days - The Strategic Story -
Who is your hero?