Be the Branson of business, the Clarkson of cars

What do these all have in common?

A raucous Iron Maiden concert in South America, Nigella Lawson cooking up a storm while casting off sensual one-liners; Jeremy Clarkson colliding with just about everything, sideways and at high-speed, in the newest Lamborghini; Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping iron until his jugular throbs; and a professor in Canada who refuses to bow to politically correct gender norms? Oh, and Julius Malema?

For one very specific reason or another, all stand out in their industries. And all are the subject of a new South African business book focusing on how individuals and brands go about becoming industry leaders: What Makes Them Great? 50 Ways to Become an Industry Leader, where I took apart the nuts and bolts of what makes certain people stand out - and presented them as 50 techniques.

So what's it all about?

'You have to be odd to be number one' – Dr Seuss

Is there a recipe to be outstanding? Isn't it by definition - well - exceptional?

In theory, you can become the Branson of business, the Clarkson of cars, the Schwarzenegger of bodybuilding. 

When you are the industry leader, the undisputed expert, the entire dynamic changes: the media and the deals come to you; your level of earning is exponentially higher; you enjoy privileged access and extraordinary leeway; you arrive to find the door already open.

But there are myths to dispel. Whether you are a cartoonist or a chiropractor, a manager or a musician, the specifics of your industry are of less interest here than the underlying principles that help you to build your brand.

Knowledge isn’t everything

Obviously, you have to start with the skills.

But when we think of the term 'expert', our conditioned minds automatically go straight to the idea of 'knowledge'. He who has the most wins, right? Well, knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient. You can have all the knowledge in the world, yet still remain relatively obscure in your industry; a low earner.

The balancing act is this: If you have all the knowledge, but no public personality, you are merely a specialist.

If you have all the personality, but no knowledge, you are a Kardashian.

Research is constantly evolving regarding our understanding of human talent and capabilities. Add to that the more esoteric realms of business theatre and memorable PR - consider some of the signature moves by the likes of Elon Musk, Jaguar, Pixar, and a breed of new online personalities who are taking ‘the news’ away from the mainstream media - and you have an entirely different animal.

It’s okay if some people don’t like you

If you don’t have a healthy amount of 'dislikes' on your proverbial YouTube video, you are probably not pushing hard enough. Take Jeremy Clarkson as a case study. Half the world wants to burn him at the stake. The other half wants to deify him. And either way, Clarkson doesn’t particularly care. He appeals to his particular tribe. And as for the disapproval? He’s perfectly okay with that.

A journey from 'talent' to 'tactics'

There's a a breed of new online personalities who are taking 'the news' away from the mainstream media.

I believe deeply in being a 'constant producer'.

Writing and publishing books is one of the key expert-positioning techniques I recommend. No doubt, publishing books, particularly credible books with commercial publishing houses, helps to position you as a thought leader in your industry. 

Otherwise, write what you can. But write it.

Growing experts in Africa

Here's where the local application comes in. I strongly believe Africa needs more experts, more icons, more standouts. 

But how do we get there? That’s the hard part. How do you translate raw aspiration into a practical road-map?

Some of the ideas – actually most of them – are the sort of thing you’re never taught at school, and rarely find in business books. But maybe it's time to do things a little differently.

It helps to dissect all the nuts and bolts, the explicit to-do items for becoming a leading name in any industry.

It helps to be cheeky and industry agnostic.

I think of it as a sort of blueprint for personal greatness, drawing on different industry icons and on what they’ve done that really works. 

Douglas Kruger is a speaker and business author. What Makes Them Great? 50 Ways to Become an Industry Leader is his sixth book with Penguin Random House SA. 

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