Home mission statement The one word that helped a one-man business become one of America’s most successful businesses

The one word that helped a one-man business become one of America’s most successful businesses


Open any business book or listen to current business podcasts and you’ll likely hear a lot of jargon being used to explain success.

  • Synergistic Growth Hack
  • Corridor ideation
  • Next generation omnichannel customer service

The business world is full of buzzwords. And yet, the more words there are, the less they seem to make sense. I set out to build a business based on the opposite. A sole proprietorship, hyper-focused on a single word. Not a single white paper. Not a single mission statement. Not even a sentence of jargon. Only one word.

It’s a sole proprietorship, and last year ranked #43 on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies and #1 in Minnesota: studio503: The Company of “And”.

Here’s the problem: whether we recognize it or not, behind all the bravado and buzz, the global business landscape hinges on a single word. But it’s not “and”. Where is it”.

  • Are we a sales or marketing, manufacturing, distribution or consulting company?
  • Should we increase hiring or automate?
  • Do we focus on office or sports or pet or medical products?

Whenever we approach a goal with an “or”, the solution is not a solution at all. It is a compromise, a sacrifice.

What if some – or most, or even all – became an “and”? Instead of seeing everything as “this or that” scenarios where you try to choose the best option, you take the time to develop an entirely new solution.

That’s what it’s like to come from a place of “and”.

Some giant conglomerates develop a multitude of products and have different business units, which is a form of “and”, but their models are often based on doing all these things within their companies, with silos and divisions .

Big companies do business with big companies. This is not surprising.

What may be surprising is that some individuals and small businesses are also doing it at high levels, without the conglomerates, silos and divisions. They do this through partnerships.

That’s the secret to how I made the top 50 in Inc. 5000. I defended manufacturers and retailers. I found a way to deliver quality and margins. I invented ways to generate speed and accuracy. I built a combined sales, marketing, sourcing, distribution, strategy and consulting business while simultaneously launching brands across multiple categories and channels including office, pet, veterinary, electronics, stationery, sporting goods, laboratory, medical and dental.

That’s a lot of “and’s” for one person – and that was on purpose.

Do not mistake yourself. I am not solely responsible for the success of my business. It took years to cultivate an arsenal of strategic partners, ranging from independent entrepreneurs to key multinationals in various markets and channels, to have the right mix for each situation. By embracing hyper-responsibility and sharing the “and”, I have been able to build highly effective teams and chart a course through partnerships that have solved global challenges at scale and created a whole new business model in the process.

The “and” model is based on collaboration, transparency and integrity. It breaks down silos, profit margin expectations, egos and political posturing. It leverages creativity and innovation to identify opportunities and accelerate the means to realize them. For me, “and” took away the status quo. He demolished the excuses. This inspired optimism. He was the catalyst for transformative results.

Why should you care? Because it’s not a story about me. It’s a story about how coming from a place of “and” changes your perspective and can transform or even save your business. Look around you. Businesses around the world are facing unprecedented challenges, and yet they are still trying to solve new problems with the old “or” mindset:

  • Cost increase: Increase prices to customers or reduce margins?
  • Supply chain bottlenecks: Expediting freight or out of stock products?
  • Labor shortage: Raise wages or not fulfill orders?
  • Reduced budgets: Launch online or via brick and mortar?

These are common challenges businesses face and when viewed as choices between them, there has to be a sacrifice with every choice. That’s what it’s like to come from a place of “or” as we are all well aware.

Settling for the “or” driven status quo is what keeps so many businesses stuck with incremental or no progress. Combine that with siled operations where each department grapples with its own “or”, and it’s no wonder so many companies have failed or will soon fail. “Or” makes them vulnerable to being disturbed and replaced.

“And” replaces compromise with possibility. It perpetuates optimism and creates energy to seek, discover, invent, innovate and collaborate.

Coming from a place where “and” means saying “when faced with choices between options, we can find a way to do both”.

There is a word of warning. Success always lies in your ability to execute. You still need to take the time to analyze the various opportunities and seemingly endless possibilities of combining your network, partnerships and capabilities or you run the risk of becoming too broad.

Coming from a place of “and” does not mean jumping at every opportunity or idea in order to do everything. It means changing the initial mindset you adopt when facing “or” challenges and how you can approach solutions differently, which can allow you to invent and accomplish more than you could by simply “or” and “no”. “

It’s part art, part science and a whole lot of willingness to disrupt. But it is not a disturbance that causes problems. It is the disruption to discover and invent new solutions.

Stop choosing. Start adding. If that seems impossible or unrealistic, remember if a one-man business could do it, so there’s no reason your business can’t too. Go higher, further and faster by focusing on “and”.


The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.