} -->
Back to Top

Your Core Discovery

Every company has that one service, or one product, or one family of services or products that accounts for the majority of its sales.   Here I refer to this product or service as your “core discovery” – a product of your core competency. When you are a well-established organization, it is relatively easy to identify your core discovery.

Thomas Mason Point Collar
J. Crew, a retailer, sells hundreds of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. Focusing on the menswear, they make dozens of dress shirts; however, one particular shirt continues to be the favorite. According to former menswear head, Frank Muytegens, the Thomas Mason Point Collar, ($135), became consumers’ favorite because it is, “Masculine but not too heavy, lightweight but not too flimsy. The collar’s not too big, but not too small. It’s tailored, but not too much. (Because) it almost feels like a custom made shirt, (it) justifies the $135 price tag.” In less than 30 years of business, J. Crew created an image as a premier stop for the upscale preppy look with several core discoveries. In late 2010 it sold for $3 billion.

The question remains: how did J. Crew manage to create, and then expose their discovery so that they could capitalize on a market opportunity and grow the discovery to where it became a core discovery, and one of the main supports of the men’s line?

Muytegens implies that it is a combination of teamwork, time and attention to detail, (nail the details), as well as feedback (figure out why it worked):

Build a diverse and talented team.  If you're building a house and you know how to hammer a nail, and you surround yourself only with other people who know how to hammer a nail, you're doomed.  What about people who know how to cut down the tree and create studs? People who understand framing for solid construction? Electricians, plumbers, and landscapers? You need a diverse range of skilled artisans to make it work.

From a management perspective, it's a pitfall coined as a "derailer" when you hire in your own likeness.  Ultimately, it leads to your downfall because you surround yourself with individuals who cannot see, or will not express divergent opinions, leaving you with 270 degrees of blindsides.

The Devil is in the Details
We pay more for thoughtful attention to the details that others overlook.  Consider a brand named item and its generic counterpart: the added softness and thickness of a toilet tissue, the darting in a top, or the clever packaging of a condiment .  A detail that helps the product or service function with added consideration, convenience, or flair brings high praise.  And if you master those details, outwit the devil, so to speak, consumers will pay top dollar.

You don't know what you don't know.  But, if you listen, you'll soon find out.  Customers want good quality products and services that serve their needs, and given an opportunity, (an sometimes an incentive), they will provide you with insight into how you can better serve their needs.  It could be a process improvement, a new feature, or you may discover that customers need your product/service in scenarios that you never imagined.