Our obsession in this world with sameness goes beyond retail. Indeed, look at newspapers, TV shows, housing estates … we’re a world in the grip one size fits all.

What happened to individuality?

I was watching local current affairs the other night, flipping between the two major network shows here in Australia – Today Tonight and A Current Affair. The stories were so similar that you’d have thought they came from the same team. Then later in the night it was hard to escape a crime type show – different names but very similar stories and plots. The same is true on television in every city in the world I have been and in the newspapers as well.

Commerce in each category is becoming a big mosh pit where individuality is checked at the door so everyone can jump up and down in the same style and to the same beat.

No matter where you look one sees people playing follow the leader. So few in business are engaging in creative original thought. It’s no wonder retro works – no need for originality there. Whole countries are embracing the pursuit of sameness – look at China and their pursuit of the western lifestyle. They’re even building towns and cities based on US models.

This sickness of sameness is where small business, if it were smart, could shine. Embrace originality, own it and wake consumers out of the slumber of sameness. While McDonalds, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Woolworths and Blockbuster et al will continue their march across the world, small businesses focusing locally can put up a fight. The challenge is whether the gatekeepers – the landlords – make it easy or hard and history is showing that they will make it hard.

In our own small business (a newsagency selling papers, magazines, cards, lotteries and stationery etc) in suburban Melbourne, Australia we have placed line in the sand and clawed double digit growth in product categories which have been stagnant for several years. We’ve done this by engaging with our customers on local issues and in very local ways. We’re proof of what can be done. It’s hard work and hit and miss (like all innovation) but the result is growth and money in the back.

It comes down to this – if you’re in business you’re in BUSINESS. Waiting for someone else to make decisions for you is not business like. The more small business people who act like business people the more small businesses that will post growth.

It begins with being individual and making your business YOUR BUSINESS.

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