Go Back to the Start: How Chipotle is Redefining the Fast Food Market — and what you can learn!

When you think fast food, you think McDonald’s, Burger King, and, maybe, Wendy’s. If you want to get “ethnic,” you might throw in Taco Bell.

Try as they might, these companies can’t get you to equate eating fast food with eating healthy. You go to them for two reasons: cost & convenience. And maybe you don’t go to them at all.

And that’s just my gut.

Using my amazing powers of deduction, I would guess that there’s a larger percentage than average of people reading this blog who just wouldn’t go to a fast food joint for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You’re not in that market. You’re not a customer. You drive by not through.

Fast food has a bad reputation.

The fast food market is fairly finite. While new McEaters are born every day, the group of people willing to eat that food remains basically the same. New people aren’t being “converted” to fast food every day. Those that are do so out of necessity not out of choice.

That means, to grow profits, companies like McDonald’s and Wendy’s have to vie for a bigger piece of the pie. They choose a specific segment and they go after it. They release a new product to court a new segment of customers. They pick up a few more crumbs.

Hey, I thought this was about Chipotle?

Right. So Chipotle comes along. It’s fast food. Straight up. Unless it’s horribly busy, I can get my food in a Chipotle faster than I can at Wendy’s.

Here’s the difference: I choose to eat at Chipotle.

Why? It tastes good, first & foremost. Second, it’s real food.

Did you see this commercial during the Grammys? I couldn’t believe my eyes. That could not have been a cheap ad spot.

Cultivate a better world, says Chipotle. I buy it. Their meats are sustainably raised. They use as much organic produce as possible. It’s a story and an idea I’m willing to buy over & over again.

Chipotle entered the fast food market but it didn’t allow the fast food market to define it. Instead, it generated value (environmental sustainability, health consciousness, deliciousness) that brought a whole new customer base into the fast food market.

What does that kind of growth look like? With 1230 US stores: “Chipotle stock is up 50 percent on the year and over 500 percent over five years, far outperforming the market as a whole or the restaurant sector in particular. They announced last week that revenue grew 23.7 percent in 2011, with an 11 percent increase in same-store revenues. Restaurant operating margins are more than 25 percent,” according to Slate.com.

Those aren’t numbers to sneeze at.

Chipotle has taken a strong stance (anti-factory farming, for one), doubled-down on constraints (1 menu, few choices), and upped the ante by consistently delivering great tasting food. In doing so, they’ve created a legion of new-to-the-market fiercely loyal fans.

Principled choices lead to massive profit.

Click to tweet it!

So the question to you is:

Have you backed down from principled choices because you fear the wrath of the existing market?

Are you allowing your competitors to write the rules of the game? Or are you writing your own?

Are you afraid that stating your beliefs and injecting them into every aspect of your business will turn customers away?

Are you simply following the standard strategy? Or are you generating new value through purpose-driven choices that attract new customers to you & your business alone?

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Bake a Bigger Pie: What social media has to teach about You Economy business – or – Top Ten lists be damned!

My social media consumption is at an all time low. At best, Twitter & Facebook are boring. At worst, they’re perpetuating the model of business that got us in this economic mess to begin with.

All I see is formula headline after formula headline, 6 ways for this and 3 tricks for that. They all promise big returns. They are almost (and I’m only saying that to be nice) all fluff.

The bits of brilliance are few & far between. But they’re enough to keep me around.

Radiant self-promotion doesn’t bother me. Scrambling for a just-slightly-bigger piece of the pie does.

Let me explain.

It’s not that organizing information in an easy-to-read way is bad. I could do a better job of that myself. It’s not that writing clever headlines is bad. It’s not.

What is unfortunate is that this trend means solopreneurs are simply resorting to what corporations have been doing for years, going after their competitors instead of bringing more customers & value into the market.

“Now hold up!” you might say. “How is a formula blog post going after a competitor?”

Excellent question. You don’t have to slam a competitor or blatantly try to steal traffic, sales, or customer loyalty to be playing the competitive advantage game.

Competitive advantage is the name of the Them Economy game.

They try to eek out a percentage point here, pennies on the dollar there. Sure, it works. But for how long? They see the market as finite. There are only so many eyeballs — better optimize my business to attract the highest percentage.

They are going for a slice of the lifestyle design pie, the handmade marketplace pie, the travel hacking pie, the minimalist pie, the app pie, the self-publishing pie. They’re not bringing new customers into the fold. They’re not offering new ideas or fresh perspective.

They parrot others ideas in the hope that speaking the same words will yield the same results.

They show up in your Twitter stream to claim what’s theirs.

They see innovation at an end. Sure, the chips get smaller & the resolution gets brighter — but new? Nope, not right now. They don’t see new ideas around every corner, new opportunities for advancement just over every horizon.

They are more concerned with their social media strategy than they are with making your life better, easier, healthier, more connected, or more meaningful.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to buy it.

And we don’t have to rely on carving out a bigger piece of the pie for ourselves at the expense of others.

You Economy businesses know that the market is infinite. Click to spread the word! It is only limited by their ability to invite customers to the table.

You Economy businesses know that it’s not a matter of capturing a piece of what already exists but about creating something new, uniquely you, and in service of others. Baking a bigger pie leads to the greatest success.

You Economy businesses create welcoming spaces that use meaning, relationship, and experience to provide multidimensional value to a wider audience. They propose new ideas and invite others to participate in making them whole. They connect people to ambitions greater than any individual company or person could hold for themselves.

And yes, you can do this 140 characters at a time. Try it.

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The Anthropreneur Angle: delivering a good life through other-focused business culture

A good life is one rich in, above all, “human potential,” the capacity to seed, nurture, and harvest all the many different kinds of wealth.
— Umair Haque, Betterness

Building your own business on your strengths, passion, and self-determination goes a long way towards generating wealth on many levels.

You’ll find your reserves of creativity rising, your relationship accounts overflowing, and your energy reports firmly in the black. Raking in a nice profit doesn’t hurt, either.

This is old news.

You Economy businesses must not only support their owners but support others.

This is not as simple as “do no harm.”

It means working in a way that leaves your commercial ecosystems qualitatively & quantifiably better. As Haque describes it in his book, Betterness, it’s a positive paradigm of economy – not simply a “not negative” one.

The positive economic paradigm isn’t just based in the trade of financial assets but the growth of real wealth in all its forms.

In this system, your business thrives because you’re not just solving problems for your customers but helping them live richer lives. Your business doesn’t make life “not bad” it makes life better.

You know your business can make your life richer in many forms: relationally, creatively, financially, intellectually, emotionally, etc.. But have you designed it to make your customer’s lives better in all those ways as well?

Do you make business decisions with the intention of making your customers richer? 

I don’t doubt that some of you already do this. However, in striving to make our businesses work “better,” we often crack open the annals of Them Economy business. We assume the answer lies in the dots that remain unconnected in our non-MBA-trained brains. We assume the answer is hiding in more persuasive marketing copy, finely tuned profit & loss statements, and better launch strategy.

But you are not just another cog in the Them Economy machine.

I love persuasive marketing copy, finely tuned P&L statements, and rocking launch strategies, but the basis & understanding for those facets of business must now arise from an other-focused culture. Your overall business culture must emerge from a focus on generating multidimensional wealth for those you come in contact with.

What is business culture?

Your business culture (and yes, you have one!) is the point-of-view & values that make up all business decisions, communication, and development.

“The thing is, every business has a culture. It may be strong or weak, positive or negative, or just plain hard to spot, but it’s like a form of internal brand in a way. It’s the collective impression, habits, language, style, communication and practices of the organization.
— John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

You’re not an entrepreneur, you’re an anthropreneur.


An anthropreneur is part of & is creating a commercial culture that serves human beings to their full potential. The language, habitat, rituals, and beliefs of service & those you serve are at the center of your business culture. As an anthropreneur, you are concerned with building wealth into every facet of life – beyond mere profit – both yours & your customers’.

This is why you find the usual answers to business questions lacking. It’s not that those answers are wrong. It’s that in a different time, a different economy, a different culture, you could start with those answers & build from there.

In the You Economy, you must start with your other-focused culture. You must start with the intention to build wealth on all levels for all parties involved. You must know what that looks like, feels like, tastes like. And then you can layer the business-as-usual answers on top of that context. You can evaluate them. You can mold them & manipulate them to work for your business culture.

Consider social media. No, really.

I am a lover of social media. Both for what it has allowed me to access in commerce & for what it has allowed me to communicate to a mass audience. But I’m not a “how to” social media strategist. I’m a user. And maybe a bit of a philosopher.

But social media is an acute & accessible example of the generating multidimensional forms of wealth.

The gurus will tell you how often to tweet, when to post updates, and what types of headlines will generate the most response. That’s fine. There’s even research to prove it, which I highly recommend reading.

You can construct tweets & updates that have no purpose, no greater message, no call to action. They’ll get retweeted. But does that give your business traction? Is anyone really paying attention? Or is it simply part of a paradigm that rewards competitive behavior? I, of course, would argue the latter.

Instead, starting a movement around a single ideal – even for entertainment, internet memes, FTW! – encourages others to build on the conversation. Develop a #hashtag around something you’re passionate about, use it, and watch others add their own emotional & intellectual wealth to the conversation.

Your output is valuable, sure. But the spontaneous conversation created around your output is exponentially more valuable. If that conversation is tied to a business and you leverage it for sales, your financial wealth increases. If that conversation is tied to a nonprofit and you leverage it for action, social wealth increases. There is greater value for you, your customers & compatriots, and those you all touch in the shared wealth than there is in the value of a single source output.

What I’m not suggesting is that we build other-focused cultures at the expense of profit. Sometimes, these cultures will impact profitability – or our ability to squeeze every last cent out of the business model. Businesses & anthropreneurs should be encouraged to profit – lots of it – as one simple indicator of the wealth they are building into the system.

Responsibility to generating all forms of wealth doesn’t negate your responsibility to generate a profit. And it will probably help.

Yes, building your own business is a big step towards you living a better, more fulfilled life. But to get there in the You Economy, you must begin with making the lives of others better. Unleash their human potential – they’ll help you unleash yours.

What’s your anthropreneur angle?

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Early Adopters: yep, you’ve got ‘em. Now put them to use!

Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationship, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.
— Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

This, you know. Social media gives you the best opportunity to talk to fellow business owners and loyal customers since, well, the last time you strolled down a thriving main street.

Best of all, social media doesn’t mind if you’re in your pajamas.

We also know that social media contributes to tipping points and even revolutions. It connects neighbor to neighbor and grandson to grandma.

Social media has reinvented word of mouth by creating word of type, swipe, and tap.

But before there can be sharing, there has to be something to share. And there has to be people who want to share it.

And this is where Early Adopters come in.

What is an Early Adopter?

They’re the people who wait in line for the latest iDevice. They’re the people try out new software before you’ve even heard of it.

According to The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development:
“Passionate, early users of new technology or products who understand its value before mainstream markets.”

Yes, they’re most often associated with tech.

But they’re also the people who try out the new restaurant in town before the reviews come out. Or the newest microwaveable meal at the grocery store. Or the salon that just opened. Or the doula that just started her practice. Or the artist that hung her first show.

Early Adopters rely on curiosity to fuel their purchasing decisions far more than brand names or customer reviews.

But Early Adopters do more than just buy your stuff.

Early Adopters want to help you and (here is the best bit) want you to be successful.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

Whether your business is 30 days old or 30 years old, you can harness your own Early Adopter community. Your new widget or service may be a hard sell for those who are used to using something else but, harness your Early Adopters, and you’ll be able to make your initial offering much more palatable to the masses.

Game? Here’s how you do it:

Use Early Adopters to make in-progress products better.

Create an email list for people who are specifically interested in a new product. Email them regularly with content tangential to the development of your product. Ask for feedback, opinion, and personal experiences. Create a conversation that informs the development of the product you’re working on.

Use Early Adopters to get feedback on in-use products.

Since Early Adopters are those most likely to “get it,” utilize them to provide the feedback that gaps your designer experience with the user experience of those you’re selling to. Survey the first wave of buyers and seek to understand how they’re using the product and why they wouldn’t live without it anymore. Adjust sales copy, your positioning, and your product/service based on a careful analysis of this feedback.

Use Early Adopters to produce more.

We spend too much time in development and not nearly enough time in testing, deployment, and analysis. Create a first run product that is high in quality but lacking in bells & whistles. Sell these products (or services) to an invite-only list (see point 1) and solicit feedback so that you can create a second run product with the features, bells, & whistles your wider audience actually wants. Then you’ll be creating your next first run product instead of banging your head against your desk wondering why the first product didn’t sell.

Reward Early Adopters for giving you a hand.

Reward? On this budget?! A mention on Twitter, an email conversation, or sending them a preview copy of your next product are all great – and cheap – ways to reward your Early Adopters. Luckily, they don’t require much more than acknowledgment and the very first heads up on what you’ve got coming next.

I know, I’m an Early Adopter.

Start finding your Early Adopters today.

Run a sales report, create a Twitter list, thank them by name on your Facebook page, create your “Sneak Peek” email list… do something that helps you identify these key people in your business.

But first, leave me a response below and tell me what you’re going to do with them!

beyond social media: I’ve seen the future and it’s name is Google+

“How are you going to use Google+?” That’s the question on early adopters’ lips.

We have been programmed to look at each and every evolution of Web 2.0 as something to use, something that can be harnessed to do our bidding and serve our needs. The race to establish your profile, the mad hunt for followers, the not-so-social tactics for driving eyeballs back to your site… it’s all pretty familiar now.

Let me offer you a different thought about this new “platform:” Google+ is not just another evolution of Web 2.0 but a genuine step into the world of Web 3.0.

Web 3.0 has been defined as the Semantic Web, where the machines & algorithms understand us just as well as our friends and family. But I think we’re a ways off from having machines that truly comprehend the nuances of human communication. Instead, it appears that we’re entering an era of true integration with technology, at least in the connected class.

The tool that has become synonymous with search now offers a way to create a virtual representation of yourself.

Actually, that’s not quite right.

Your Google+ profile is a direct representation of who you are online. Nothing virtual about it.

You owe it to yourself to create the best “you” there as possible. Why? Google has already integrated itself into your life: Gmail, docs, calendar, maps… This isn’t about business versus personal, networking versus socializing. This is about the whole you, the well-rounded you.

And this is about what people find when they look for you.

Case in point, check out what pops up when I Google myself:

Yep, my G+ profile is listed above this very website. The one that bares my name! Now, I asked around and discovered that this isn’t yet the case for everyone. And, no doubt, if you haven’t yet activated a G+ account, this is not that case. But just how much longer is this going to be a new thang? Not long.

How you build out your profile, connections, +1’s, and comments will affect how the almighty G-machine understands you and that in turn will affect how real live human beings understand you.

The implications are vast.

How am I reacting to this new platform? Well, since I believe G+ represents a fundamental shift in how we integrate the ‘net into our total lives, I’m having a bit of an existential crisis! Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But I feel pressure to create a compelling profile that avoids fluff, pitches, and blatant advertising.

I have confidence that I’m all I need to sell me – so how can I translate me into updates, links, and photos?

That’s the (multi) million dollar question.

I’m striving to create a stream of content that, when taken as a whole, invites people to learn more about me. On the flip side, I’m endeavoring to offer Google what it needs to offer me the best experience of the online world as possible.

That’s putting a lot of faith in a corporation. I think they deserve it. And they’ve done their best to earn it.

What are your thoughts on Google+? Are you using it yet – and, if so, how? And if you haven’t joined the party, are you hungry to give it a try?

Other smarty pants thoughts on Google+:

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By the way, you can circle me up on Google+ by clicking here. And you can help me out immensely by clicking the +1 button below!