Becoming A Category of One

A Category of One

By Patrick Sanders

Being a small business operator is a lot like being a pirate. You’ve got a parrot on your shoulder, peg leg, and affinity for emphasizing the letter “R” in all that you say.

Admittedly, that’s not very accurate. But it’s close. Being a small business operator is much like being a small fishing vessel with a crew of 1-2 competing against commercial fishing firms with fleets of ships, expensive equipment, and layers of systems in place to dominate their category.

In this analogy: the small fishing vessel is faced with two choices: compete in the bloody, red water or head for open seas to the blue water – which is untainted by competition and full of undiscovered opportunities.

In Joe Calloway’s “Becoming a Category of One”, some common sense but notable concepts are talked about that have a real world impact on running any small business, not excluding a healthy vending business.

The biggest takeaway: if you have a successful business, then you know what used to work.

That’s right: USED to work. Past success can be the enemy of future success, so embracing a process of continual change is key to expanding your business.

The goal of this process of continual change is to escape the “commodity trap”, which is being labeled as just another company in a certain industry or space with little differentiation.

For example: do your locations think of you as just another vending operator with a fancy machine? Or do they think of you as a nutrition consultant and provides tasty products and drives philanthropic change in his or her community?

The answer to that question should tell you if you’re in a category of one, or if you’re fishing in red water.

I encourage you to watch this short video from Joe Calloway, best-selling author of “Becoming a Category of One: How Extraordinary Companies Transcend Commodity and Defy Comparison” and “1ndispensable: How to Become the Company That Your Customers Can’t Live Without”.


Biomedical Engineer who earned his degree from The Johns Hopkins University & Columbia University. Named one of Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-Founded America’s first Pure Play healthy vending company in 2003.

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