Disruptor. I love that word but I think it is often misunderstood. Some might define it as simply someone who shakes it up and does things differently. I believe it is much more. In a business context, I believe a Disruptor first identifies opportunities that the existing Market fails to see and capitalizes on that opportunity to create and execute a game-changing concept. Great examples of this in today’s world include Apple, Google, Uber, Door Dash, Amazon, and so many other great companies both large and small. In each case, the company identified an opportunity that the current marketplace did not see and created a paradigm shift that in hindsight we might say was so simple. “Why didn’t I think of that?” Take Door Dash. From the outside looking in, it is a simple concept. Deliver food to homes, hotels, and offices. Up until these home delivery services, you were limited in the menu to Pizza, Chinese, and Pizza. It was a thoroughly boring experience. The founders of Door Dash identified the opportunity and analyzed the possibilities. Bad food, Bad service, and Limited menu. When you look at it that way, it seems obvious. Offer good food, good service, and an expansive menu. In addition, they used technology to kick it up with automated payment and tracking systems. They are truly the definition of a disruptor. At Paragon, we have lunch together every Friday, delivered by Door Dash. We get to choose from dozens of restaurants and save time since we don’t have to leave the office. That leaves more time for bonding and storytelling. It is a highlight of my week.

In our industry, we see examples of disruptors all the time. The companies that get all the press like Sheetz, Wawa, QT and Kwik Trip are wonderful examples of companies that continue to reinvent themselves through this disruptive process. But I am not going to talk about the big guys. At Paragon, we get the opportunity to work with hundreds of companies both big and small. We often get customers that are building their first store. I love to work with these smaller companies where everything is questioned. I have learned over the years to listen when ideas are thrown out by these entrepreneurs as they challenge the status quo.  They are not constrained by what we have always done because, frankly, they don’t know what we have always done. I used to think this was a weakness but I have come to realize that this is one of their greatest potential strengths. My council now is to not try to imitate those big guys but to be yourself and be different. Be a disruptor. It is the single greatest weapon in your arsenal. We are challenged to interpret the uniqueness of each of these entrepreneurs and reflect that uniqueness in their design. What a wonderful challenge.

In the past couple of years, we have worked with our clients on urban markets, rural grocery stores, boutique markets, bakeries, casinos, country-western bars, meat markets, drive-thru markets, smokehouses, liquor stores, proprietary foodservice, travel plazas’ gift shops, commissaries, and hundreds of new concept Convenience Markets. Each of these projects was completely different in some ways and the same in others. The process and the journey that each of these entrepreneurs took was very similar in which we looked for what was unique and different in each and created their unique vision of what this industry should be through their eyes. The results are a broad range of retail stores that are a reflection of the Disruptor that is the Independent Retailer.

One example of this is a customer that wanted to build a market in an entertainment complex called the Toyota Music Factory. The traditional convenience market just wouldn’t do. Patrons could take food and beverages into the various venues from the restaurants and retailers in the complex. A chef was hired, a unique market was designed and a plan was made to serve the music patrons with great food, great wine, and great service. Cokes, smokes, and Twinkies? I don’t think so. This exciting new concept just opened. Stay tuned for the results but the initial reviews are great. This customer did not constrain herself to the traditional or the ordinary. She envisioned a disruptive solution to a unique opportunity. You can either sit back and see what happens as the world changes around you or you can embrace it and look for those unique opportunities that will give you a competitive edge. The choice is yours. One of my early mentors used to say, “Change is Good, Extreme Change is Extremely Good.” We live in changing times and I believe that the times are Extremely good for the Disruptor.