Grab your FREE copy of the 60 Low & No Cost PR & Marketing Strategies eBook*



*By submitting your email, you will receive the eBook & also sign-up for Carol’s newsletter
Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Don’t be Another Them, Be a Better You

Written By: Carol Roth | 19 Comments

We live in a world and marketplace filled with unprecedented competition.  When you are floundering or finding your way, you may be inspired by the success (or in some cases, the perceived success) of other individuals or companies.  While it makes all of the sense in the world to take a strong concept and find a way to do it smarter, better, faster or more effectively (assuming you have the skills and experience to do so)- or even tweak it for a different market- the key for success is that you need to put your own spin on it.

I have seen many folks who have preferred to copy instead of being inspired to take ideas, concepts or business models to the next level.  I get people telling others- and sometimes me- that they are just like me.  The reality is usually that they are nothing like me (and thank god for that; the world doesn’t need two me’s running around- oy!).  Typically, these individuals have no idea who they are or what their brand stands for.  So, they get lazy and assume that by attaching themselves to the identity or quality that’s already successful with someone else, it will allow some of that success to rub off on them.

But, guess what? It doesn’t work.  It’s inauthentic and uninspired.

You shouldn’t aspire to be another someone else or another “x” brand, you should aspire to be the first and most successful you.  What someone else brings to the table or what another person or company defines as success may have nothing to do with you at all.  Trying to emulate someone or something else, without putting your own unique spin on it with your own brand and customers isn’t innovating, it’s imitating.

It can, of course, make sense to make comparisons to well-known entities because people understand what they know.  I have been compared to many folks, most recently being called Suze Orman meets Chelsea Handler for entrepreneurs and small business owners, but I don’t want to be the next Suze Orman (or Chelsea, for that matter). The comparison is just for clarity.  Someone may say that their business model is Groupon meets eBay.  Again, it’s logical to draw those comparisons to create an understandable frame of reference when explaining a business model.  However, it defies logic to copy every one of their features and put your own brand name on it.

Remember that you and your brand are different.  Each company’s brand should speak to their own target customers based on brand values.  That means that your strategies and tactics need to have your own spin on them to really be authentic and effective.

Your competition or others that you admire may give you a great idea or move you into action, but think about the intersection of your customers’ needs and what you uniquely bring to the table to be the best you, instead of another “them”.

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
  • Nick

    Yeah Bill Gates, stop trying to be like me!

  • Perfect timing on this post, Godly enough. 🙂 I’m plunging headlong into what, for me, is uncharted waters of sorts. One of the things I feel called to do is create an interactive television program – and it’s never been done before as far as I can tell, at least not with “my spin” on it. But that begs the question: if we’re innovating, it can be difficult to explain something clearly without a “Suze Orman meets Chelsea Handler” – how can we explain what we’re up to without being too comparative?

  • caroljsroth

    @lisarobbinyoung in places like tv or elevator pitches, you have to have that comparison for something new to create the frame of reference. But then you have to interject what you bring and how it’s different, once everyone has that framework. Let the framework bring clarity, but don’t let it define you either.

  • Carol, I’m with this for sure. For a while, I studied “modeling” which is basically trying to understand people’s thought patterns, and patterns of behavior. The problem with that is, you have to be careful not to become them! Individualism is the only way. You’re awesome the quirky, weird way you already are! (is what I say to myself)

    I see what you’re talking about a lot more in the.. spotlight people – the people who are in the public eye a lot, or who are trying to be – and to someone who can spot it, it looks very fake. As easy as it is to understand, being your own.. whoever, is really really important! Love these kinds of posts. Mind posts!

  • skooloflife


    I came across your work when you were interviewing David on The Rise to the Top. I love what you’re talking about here. I’ve always told people that you’re personality is your biggest competitive advantage in the world we live in today. I think it’s important to learn from people and adopt some best practices but eventually you have to develop your own ways for doing things.

  • caroljsroth

    @skooloflife I love the way you put that. You are 100% dead on. Your personality is the one true competitive advantage that someone else cannot fully replicate. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  • caroljsroth

    @Ryan Critchett Mind posts- lol. But mindset is so much of what affects success. And you are in fact awesome in your weird quirky way (couldn’t help myself).

  • skooloflife

    @caroljsroth my pleasure. I even told an employer recently that I hope I never get hired for my resume again. There’s more to me than bullets on a page. If you are up for it I”d love to interview you for blocastfm . I noticed you use Livefyre and they’re actually the sponsors of our show :).

  • Carol,

    I always remember Picasso’s quote “Mediocre artists copy the great ones steal”

    To ‘stealing’ and making it ours.

  • caroljsroth

    @skooloflife Sure- contact me through the contact form on this page or DM me through Twitter and I will reply with email address to reach me and set it up. Thanks!

  • @caroljsroth Sure is! Thanks 🙂 ! LOL.

  • JasonPowers

    I totally agree. The point is to be a different, better alternative to whatever market you are reaching. While I am in the incubator stage of the ebook arena, I hope to make a niche in that area. I dream big, but I am realistic. (ANYONE can write. Just tell the truth – someone is probably looking for that, too. Of course, you got those Kardashians out there.)

    Sometimes I think people forget that most of the stuff they got, or buy, or love for whatever reason, was at one point in time, a far from complete item or idea. It was just a bunch of banging and clanging around in some lab (or office space or dingy restaurant) to get the whole package. They borrowed too. But at some point, you can’t borrow someone’s brain or money, else it is stealing, unless we start changing the law. (Could.) Instead, you gotta get your own mouse trap.

    The pitch line is for VC and Angels. I suppose the really cool kids with the MBAs and initial family and friends’ seed money gotta have it sound like they know what’s up. These people without that, are looking for their hook for some pitch. (F the pitch – until you got someone knocking, who the F cares?)

    All those wonderful businesses got some breaks or made their breaks. It wasn’t a Suze Orman comparison or a Jim Kramer, or the departed Jobs, just knowing what you know, doing what you do, and hoping somewhere along the way, you gained some expertise in something other than fantasy baseball.

    But you called it right. That’s my meager two pesos.

  • Faith Fuqua-Purvis

    Hi Carol – Love it.

    I believe that the root of this issue is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of putting outselves out there. Fear of being seen for who we really are. Scary stuff.

    Most find it is easier to copy someone else than to forge their own trail. To do so takes courage and faith in yourself. When individuals copy/mirror someone else, no only are they looking for reflected glow, they have a built in “fall guy/gal”. It wasn’t their fault, they got bad advice/directions. It wasn’t them…

    We are all unique individuals. Some more quirky and crazy than others. That’s a good thing.

    What I have observed you doing was embracing who you really are. I too am not sure whether the world really needs another me, but I sure are glad that you are here to keep me company.

    P.S. A few years back when thinking about who I really was I created a mental “cast of characters”. Don’t remember what started it, but I did find that it was helpful in thinking through what I really wanted to do, be, and accomplish. Who am I? A bit of Daryl Connor and Peter Drucker with a dash of Tom Peters and a side of Loretta Larouche.

  • b.nijhoff

    I totally agree with you people shouldn’t copy other people but just try to discover on your own. Sure you can use other thinks to get ideas but don’t just copy it. Great article!

  • caroljsroth

    Thanks for the note and for stopping by @b.nijhoff

  • caroljsroth

    Do you think it’s fear or laziness? I tend to go with the latter…. @Faith Fuqua-Purvis

  • caroljsroth

    Love the perspective- thanks for adding! @JasonPowers

  • caroljsroth

    Love it! @John Falchetto

  • LiynLing