Becoming Alpha - In Life and Business

Becoming Alpha - In Life and Business

Humans are symbiotic. No one can live on an island all alone and expect to stay alive, let alone thrive. We give, and we take. We create and share others' creations. The ability to communicate our thoughts with other human beings helps us divide our labor and specialize in what we are good at. That's what has made us the most dominant species on planet earth.

Being a person of value is not easy. It takes time to build a skill, and transform that skill into something of value for others around us. On an island, a fisherman who has figured out how to catch 100 fish a day is of more value than the fisherman with a spear, catching at most 10 fish a day.

When you become a person of value, through hard work, discipline, and massive action, people seek you out. If you are not a person of value, you will seek out others for their help, appreciation, validation, and resources.

The term "alpha" has too many meanings. But in this context, alpha means being a person who needs others less than others need the alpha.

In any relationship, neediness is unattractive. If one person needs the other person "way too much" than the other, it usually breaks down and disintegrates. When both are "alpha enough" to be adding value to each other's lives, they form a power couple. A team of alphas in a startup makes the A-team.

A company where the employees need the company more than the company needs the employees usually doesn't last long. It makes for toxic work culture and the foundation of the company becomes weak.

How many times have you been chased by a salesman to buy what they have to offer? If the salesman needs the sale from you more than you need the product, you are the alpha in this buyer-seller relationship.

If you need the product more than the business needs you as a customer, the business is the alpha in this relationship.

Too many businesses are in the "beta" stage for too long. Their beta product never becomes the alpha product. And as a result, everyone in the company becomes a beta, because they need the customers, more than the customers need the product.

People queuing up to buy iPhones on the launch day clearly establishes who is the alpha. People need the iPhones more than Apple needs the customers because their products are so awesome. They are over-subscribed. Their demand is more than what they can supply. They built that demand by focusing on the product and not on the selling of the product.

In a relationship, if you are a high-value person, you don't need to do favors to the other person to make them more attracted to you. You just need to be yourself. Favors, gifts, and flowers are great as long as they are ways to appreciate the other person. However, most gifting is done in the expectation of a return of affection, and that makes the gifts just tools of manipulation.

Similarly, if a business is sending discount coupons on the customer's birthday, it is seen as needy and a way to manipulate the customer to buy more from them. That's why discounts, cash-backs, and promotions do not work in the long term and damage the brand's alpha status. Once the positioning is gone, it won't come back.

"Build a product so good that the customers need your product more than you need customers". - Nithin Kamath, Founder of Zerodha

Building great products need time. It needs patience. It demands a rebel out of you. While the whole world is chasing more revenue and more profits, you say no to the chase, and focus on your work. Make the products better, as far as you can take it.

Focus on the products. More revenue in the short term means more time taken away from your focus on the product. Build more demand than you can supply. Go from zero to one before you can go from 1 to 100. Don't try to get to 100 while you are at 0.5 - you will self-destruct, as do so many startups.

Open the gates to more people, when you can serve more people. The focus is not to get more people inside the gates, the focus is to make more people wait outside the gate, and continue the focus on your craft. And just let enough people in, so that you can continue to sustain and improve your craft.

The decision not to scale our business in the past year has for sure given us an alpha status among our customers. People wait to join our cohort-based programs. We put them on a waiting list and we make them wait until the next batch opens up for enrollment. We have never done that before, nor had the mindset to do so.

We only sell via sales webinars and we do not have any sales pages or payment links where customers can directly enroll in our programs. This is not some artificial scarcity we have created, we truly don't want new customers when we are not ready for it.

We are focused on making the product better, and serving our existing customers. As we work on our craft more, the demand goes up. The word spreads. The only way to build value is through genuine scarcity. And such value is what makes for a highly-valued company. Not the company that serves everything to everyone all the time.

False scarcity, artificial demand generation, and sub-par products never work in the long term. Maybe some marketing trick can bring in a new set of customers once in a while, but people get used to such tricks and the marketing team runs out of tricks very fast. People can smell BS from a mile away.

There is no way to fake your Alpha status.

If you need others less than they need you, it shows.

If you need them more than they need you, it's an elephant in the room that won't go away.

The person who is in the best negotiating position is the person who is ready to walk away from the deal.

Don't overpromise and underdeliver if you want to build something great. Just get enough sales to keep yourselves afloat, and focus on the product and service that you are building.

Slowly the word will spread. The demand will increase. And as long as you don't lose focus on the product, the demand will take care of itself.

Deepak Kanakaraju

P.S. Watch the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film follows Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master, and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. He said no to expansion and instead focused on making the Sushis as best they can be. You need to wait for 6 months to get a table. Now that's some Alpha right there.