John Barnard, president and CEO of high-end blender maker Vita-Mix, knows this rule, and he plastered it on every wall of the North Olmsted-based manufacturer when he returned in 1981 to run the company his grandfather started 44 years earlier.
"Just about everything in the world is trying to turn your product into a commodity," Barnard says. "You have to maintain the fact that it's better in whatever way. If it's not just the product, then it's the customer service, the whole package the customer buys."
The irony is that Vita-Mix has never had any serious competition, so a major reinvention was never necessary. But Barnard still saw room for improvement and new markets Vita-Mix could dominate.
Until the early 1980s, Vita-Mix was a household product sold in the United States and Canada, which left untapped the growing commercial and international markets.
"We went back and leap-frogged ourselves," Barnard says. "We looked at everything that people thought of as inefficiencies, or would like to see better, and we added a few things of our own which would expand it into new marketplaces."
In 1986, Vita-Mix released its first exclusively commercial food service product, now called the Mix'n Machine. Restaurant chains including McDonald's, Chi-Chi's, Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins have since snapped up versions of Vita-Mix's commercial drink machines for their kitchens nationwide.
"The new markets have created stability," Barnard says. "If you look at our growth curve, and the fact that we've had pretty steady growth, it's primarily because of the fact that we've broadened our base and found new areas to be successful in."
Vita-Mix's sales grew from $44 million in 2000 to $50 million last year, despite an economic downturn.
"Last year, we wouldn't have been as prosperous if we had been dependent on just the markets we used to have," Barnard says. "Every one of our profit centers didn't grow. Some of them were running slow, but the others were growing enough to pick up the difference." How to reach: Vita-Mix, (440) 235-4840 or www.vitamix.com