“Our culture celebrates superstars. We reward the product or the song or the organization or the employee that is number one. The rewards are heavily skewed , so much so that it’s typical for #1 to get ten times the benefit of #10, and a hundred times the benefit of #100.” Seth Godin, the dip, 2007.

Silver medals are getting smaller. Owners of private companies have an opportunity of being the best in the world at something. They just don’t know it yet. Being the best in the world does not necessarily mean HUGE.

You get to decide the sliver of the world you are going to dominate. In this technology-driven, social media world we live in, we need to be careful to decide who we are. Becoming number one in a worldwide space has never been easier. Distribution costs, marketing costs, recruitment costs have all shrunk. Collaboration with disparate teams across continents is both productive and fun. Think of Skype, Dropbox, Google hangout. The list of free stuff that works gets longer everyday.

Being the best in the world at something may seem a little ambitious but look at the rewards:

 Winner takes all

  • US Ice Cream Sales 2006 – % share – Vanilla 29%, Chocolate 8.9%, Butter Pecan 5.3%, Strawberry 5.3%.(International Ice Cream Assoc)
  • Box Office First weekend – July 20– Gross $ – #1 The Dark Knight Rises $160m, #2 Ice Age $20m (Box Office Mojo)
  • Average margin of victory in all major tournaments over 25 years of golf was less than 3 strokes, yet winner took home 76% more in prize dollars than second place (212° )
  • Horse racing’s classic races Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, Belmont Stakes – average payout to the winner is 400% more than second. (212° )
  • Auto racing – Daytona 500 & Indianapolis 500. Over a 10 year period despite the races taking 3 to 3.5 hours to complete, the winning margin on average was 1.54 secs, the winning prize money $1.3m, second $621k (212°)
  • iPad’s market share in Q2 2012 was 70%, second was Samsung at 9%. (Source here)
  • Search engine US market share for June 2012 shows Google at 66.8%, second is Bing at 15.6%. (comScore)

Being in the middle of the field is not safe, it’s dangerous. Go be remarkable and build a more valuable, reliable, and fun business and in time one that is saleable even if you hang on to it for your team’s joy and edification.