This is not an ocean. The tide is not out. Not every ship is sinking.
It seems everywhere I go people are captivated by what CNBC has to report, minute by minute, tick by tick, wondering when their 401-Ks might hit rock bottom. But I also hear of real estate firms making fantastic buys that just a year ago would have been impossible. Wealth is being created by some, but it is those true innovators who are willing to adapt to a “crisis” and turn it into an opportunity.
Take Credit Justice Services (CJS), for example. At a time when credit repair companies are feeling the heat of ever sterner scrutiny, this one feels comfortable. It has grown revenues nearly 1000% over the past two years, and with over 18,000 clients, CJS has quickly emerged as the 4th largest credit repair company in the country. A peek into what CJS does differently may offer some interesting ideas for how you can similarly step out of the fire and away from your competition. Founder and CEO, Douglas Muir, suggests that his company makes three counter-intuitive choices that keep its competition from copying CJS’s growth.
1. Focus on doing good rather than making money: credit repair companies are often cited as preying on unsophisticated consumers, who do not understand how personal credit ratings work, and then convincing them to part with yet more of their scarce assets. But CJS is truly dedicated to helping people improve their credit worthiness. Muir spent years on the collection side of the credit industry and saw how easy it was to damage people’s credit. He eventually developed distaste for the collection-side and the current credit rating system employed by the three big credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Muir “saw all the inaccuracies that were on consumers’ credit reports” and “saw the horrible tactics that collection agencies engage in to ruin someone’s credit.” After selling his collection company, Doug launched CJS because he wanted to switch sides, to help consumers win what he saw as an unfair battle.
2. Be transparent: most companies naturally want to protect information and keep their strategies secret. But successful innovators often appreciate that “opening the city gates,” as an ancient Chinese proverb advises, can have salutary effects. Most credit repair agencies hide their process from clients. They worry that clients and other repair companies will see how their dispute letters are written and will then try to complete the repair process on their own. CJS believes precisely the opposite and, as a result, allows its clients to see exactly what letters are being mailed. Clients even sign and send the letters themselves, ensuring that the consumer is involved in the process. CJS has found that, contrary to accepted industry belief, very few consumers choose to “steal” the CJS process and attempt to fix their credit alone (fewer than 1% do). Other companies such as Goodyear, Microsoft, and UPS, have also created significant advantage by embracing transparency.
3. Coordinate the uncoordinated: CJS also implements a powerful pattern of innovation, one that has led numerous breakthrough companies, including Wal-Mart, Wikipedia, Tata, and Linux, to overtake their competition. All of these companies have found ways to coordinate uncoordinated agents in their environments and thereby create power. CJS does this by forming relationships with a network of over 7,000 independent representatives, many attorneys, mortgage brokers, and finance professionals who use CJS’ back-office support to help their clients improve their credit scores.
By having the courage to zag when others zig, and to break from accepted industry dogma, innovators create growth in times of decline. See what opportunities may await you by applying these three patterns of competition to your business. Ask the following three questions:
1. How can you do good and whom can you help? If you step out of the weeds and look at the ecosystem, how can you create a situation in which the system overall would benefit and your company can win?
2. What would happen if you “opened your gates” and were transparent about how you do things? In what ways could this lead to your competition letting you grow unhindered and customers preferring you to others?
3. Who could you coordinate? Are there populations out there that could do more if they coordinated their activities and how could you play a role in coordinating them?