On Doing Business Differently

Just because something is done a certain way, or always has been, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

One of the most important things I’ve realized in the last 10 years, is just how much of business is done in this way – because this is how it’s been done for years, because no one questions it anymore, because it’s worked relatively well (or even very well) in the past. However, just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s the only way it works, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

I’ve been doing business differently for a while now.  When I started CityBird, I was adamant about two key things from the beginning.

1.  We would be highly curated. Because we only want to promote places we truly believe in, and feel confident about recommending to our customers. We want to build our customers trust in our taste.
2.  We would never sell “deals” or discounted offers.  Because we believe that our partners are worth every penny.  We don’t believe offering deals leads to repeat customers for our partners.

However, in most other ways, CityBird looked and functioned very much like any other listing service for experiences. We signed businesses on board, and took a percentage of every sale made. And even though this is a perfectly fine existing model, something about it didn’t sit right for me.  It didn’t mesh well with those first two core values.

If a great business that we respected and wanted to put on our site didn’t have the margins to pay us the percentage we wanted, we wouldn’t be able to share them with our customers. Everybody loses.  The business loses out on the additional exposure and access to the registry market, we lose out on being able to maintain the taste level and brand experience we want to curate, and our customers miss out on being able to find out about truly exceptional businesses, and the ability to give, receive or register for them. How is this a good model?

But in the early stages of building this businesses, the thought of doing things differently was daunting, because I hadn’t seen it done before.  Being new to the startup scene, I figured that the existing model was around for a reason, because that was the best way. I don’t believe this anymore.

Why can’t my business be a win-win-win for everyone involved? Why do most companies function as a give and take? You give me this, in exchange for that, where one half of the equation feels as though they are subtly getting screwed?

Now CityBird has a few new ways that we do business.

3.  We do not take a fee for Standard Listings. Because we want to remove barriers for bringing the best places on board. Because we believe in providing value first, profiting later. Because we want to be able to share everything we love with our customers.
4.  We focus on Collaborations, Unique Events and Exclusive Offers, crafted together with our partners.  Because we believe that what we can offer together is more valuable than what we can offer alone . Because we share the same customers, we don’t compete for them. Because we want to constantly provide new ways for our customers to discover our partners and all they can offer.

The result?  We’ve already started to see a massive shift in the relationships we’re able to build with the businesses we promote, and the increase in opportunities for future collaborations and expansion as a company.

What will this way of doing business ultimately do for CityBird? Who knows. It sure isn’t a fast track to explosive revenue or profits. But I have never been more convinced that a solid foundation of providing value, quality and trust is never a bad place to start.

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