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The Anatomy of Disrupt
"Disrupt of be disrupted." - Eric Shinseki
In 1987, I decided to stop chasing the world to make a living and invite the world to my place of business instead.
But I needed to figure out a way to “disrupt” the standard ways tour companies planned their itineraries and somehow attract them to stop at our place of business.
After purchasing and renovating an old, run-down dairy, our business would open in the heart of Prince Edward Island, located near the Anne of Green Gables House and Cavendish Beach.
When I started this blog, I did so to learn a new craft, writing. I plan to share what I learn about writing and from operating a small business for 35+ years. In context to our small business, it means sales under 5 million and nearly 100 employees during peak season times.
So where does the word "disrupt" come from? The root is the Latin word "disrumpere," which means "to break apart" or "to burst asunder." The prefix "dis-" means "apart" or "away," and the verb "rumpere" means "to break" or "to burst." Therefore, "disrupt" means interrupting the ordinary course or flow of something, often by breaking it apart or causing it to disappear.
"Disruptive innovation is not a theory; it's a fact." - Clayton Christensen.
In business and innovation, disrupting a market means fundamentally changing how things are done and challenging the existing status quo.
After speaking to tourism operators in the area, many wished me luck but offered no answers to how to break the well-worn itinerary. Getting into the market was going to take a lot of work.
Around the same time, I attended a workshop regarding tourism marketing. During the presentation, the speaker from Boston spoke about the richness of its heritage, Paul Revere, The Boston Tea Party, etc. But he made a comment that changed everything, “you Islanders have a great product, but you hide your heritage.”
A flashbulb moment hit me. My family name is Scottish, our business is in a village settled by the Scots in 1820, and Prince Edward Island has the largest diaspora of Scots per capita in the world. The aha moment was: I need a kilt.
The initial years of this adventure were interesting. I used to head to all the hotels in the city first thing in the morning, dressed in my new kilt and introduce myself to the drivers. And most of them say it is not up to them; it is the tour director, and I’d not pursue it any further.
Standing in front of our business in my kilt certainly drew attention. Being located across from a stop sign was also convenient. All coaches had to stop on their way to Anne of Green Gables House, which gave pause to the driver. I would wave to everyone on the motorcoach, and slowly the coaches started turning in. The first year we had thirty motorcoaches stop in.
I would jump on each coach, greet the folks, introduce myself enthusiastically, share my dream story using humour, and invite them to sample our wares.
Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment about enthusiasm captures a truth when he stated: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
Eight hundred and sixty became the highest number of motorcoaches in one year. Starting with four employees and ending up with nearly one hundred, we disrupted the market.
Through the highs and the lows of running our business, we sold it after 34 years in 2022.
Now, my “Act Three” is learning to write.
"Disruption is about taking risks and doing things differently." - Richard Branson.
Here are a few examples of who disrupted their respective markets or genres.
Substack: The platform you are currently reading this on has disrupted the online publishing and media market by empowering independent writers and journalists to reach a global audience and monetize their work. Its success has led to the emergence of new business models and has challenged the traditional media industry.
A few writers have disrupted the writing world.
Margaret Atwood is a writer who has disrupted multiple genres throughout her career. She is perhaps best known for her dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale," which has become a cultural touchstone and has influenced many other writers in the dystopian genre.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Gabriel Garcia Marquez disrupted the literary world with his novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude." The book is a masterpiece of magical realism, blending fantasy and reality in a way not seen before. Garcia Marquez's work has had a profound influence on Latin American literature and has inspired countless writers around the world.
J.K. Rowling: J.K. Rowling disrupted the fantasy genre with her Harry Potter series. Before publishing the first book in 1997, fantasy was not considered a mainstream genre. Still, Rowling's books became a cultural phenomenon, appealing to readers of all ages.
We are familiar with businesses such as Amazon, Nike, Netflix, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Tom’s Shoes, and Dollar Shave Club, which have all disrupted the marketplace.
Think local; who in your area has made a success by disrupting well-established businesses?
How does one disrupt?
Disrupting a market means introducing a new product, service, or business model that changes how people consume or interact with a particular industry or market.
Here are some ways to disrupt a market:
Identify a gap in the market: Look for areas where a need is or where existing solutions need improving due to outdated technology, inefficient processes, or a lack of innovation.
Offer a new value proposition: Once you've identified a gap in the market, offer a unique value proposition that addresses that gap, perhaps a new product or service, a different pricing model, or a new way of delivering value to customers.
Be customer-centric: Put the customer at the center of your business model. Focus on solving their pain points and delivering a better experience than your competitors.
Disrupting a market is not easy and requires hard work, creativity, and perseverance.
Here is Margarets Atwoods’ substack, Writing in the Burrow. I enjoy reading her stories; they always bring a chuckle.
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