In marketing circles, there’s a problem called the “majority fallacy.” What it means is that corporations and business owners often “go with the tide,” seeking the gold that’s in them ‘thar hills, along with everyone else. The problem is the “along with everyone else” part.

To be successful today, we need to set ourselves apart, to go against the tide and find our own corner of the world where we can set up shop in an uncluttered marketplace. If we go against the tide, even though it’s harder and more challenging, it’s also easier to get noticed, just like words written on the margins of a page are noticed and better remembered than words in the main body of the page itself.

Going against the tide may mean bucking “conventional wisdom” that “experts” put forth about “how things are done.” For instance, Sam Walton eschewed the conventional wisdom that the world did not need another discount retailer--at the time the country already had FedMart, Gemco, and Kmart. (Where are these "competitors" today?) Additionally, Mr. Walton opted to open in non-metropolitan areas, where the conventional wisdom suggested the lack of population density and proximity would be deal killers.

Good ideas and good entrepreneurial opportunities may often be perceived as "different,” which means that more effort is required to make them succeed. They demand that you expend your own passion and internal motivation in order to advance them in the marketplace. Failure may also be a factor to face, but not to fear. As entrepreneurs, we take risks and while the payoffs are big, so are the odds against us.

For Michael Dell, sitting in his dorm room at the University of Texas, the “tide” for selling computers was through traditional retail stores just like toasters and blenders. But consumers don’t need their toasters and blenders customized or individualized to do the job for which they’re designed, while personal computer buyers do. So Dell Computers was formed to go against the tide and actually build and deliver a customized product specifically designed to meet the needs of its customers.

Going against the tide requires persistence, belief in your idea, and the energy to execute it in a world that may initially seem indifferent to your success. It’s the nature of being an entrepreneur that we are bucking a trend or “creatively destroying” an accepted way of doing things, much like Napster affected the recording industry. By going against the tide, though, Napster paved the way for iTunes and other online marketers and music distributors.

For some entrepreneurs, going against the tide is simply improving upon a business model that’s broken and needs repair. It has been more than 20 consistently profitable years since Herb Kelleher saw an opportunity in an airline industry that was over-regulated and under-serving its customers. More recently, David Nelleman further defined the airline industry as a “service” provider, differentiating Jet Blue by customizing what it offers the customer and using customer service as a key driver of competitive advantage. For both Kelleher and Nelleman, going against the tide was as simple as giving the customer what they want: dependable, affordable air travel, provided by caring, customer-friendly people.

For all of us who call ourselves entrepreneurs, going against the tide may sometimes be a lonely pursuit. It's also one that provides great personal satisfaction when the tide eventually turns, and we see more directly the results of our labor and can finally take time to enjoy the view.

    Steven Stralser Ph.D. is a Trump University faculty member and author of MBA in a DAY, published by John Wiley & Sons (
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