Don’t Be Afraid To Copy What Another Business Does Well

February 15, 2019By

Southwest AirplaneOne of my favorite stories from the business world is about the founding of Southwest Airlines.

The founders admired another regional airline, Pacific Southwest. So they went to southern California to meet with the executives. Because at the time regional airlines couldn’t fly outside of their home state the two wouldn’t be competing against each other.

The founders of Southwest got a peek at the operations manuals and such at PSA. They loved it. It was simple, easy to follow and it was very profitable. So they decided to just copy it. Why change a good thing?

Southwest, as we know now, is one of the most successful companies in the world. Pacific Southwest strayed from their original operations. Eventually they struggled financially, were bought out and the name was dissolved.

The takeaway?

There can be a certain take on life that we have to think of bright new ideas. That’s almost always not the case. In fact, it could be the exact wrong type of thinking.

Sure, innovation is important. But anything, even the biggest innovations, is rarely entirely new. Even the iPhone wasn’t a new concept. Many of its best features were copied from other smartphones that had come before it.

And that’s okay. That’s how life works. You find something that is working well, you copy it and continue executing on the strategy.

As was the case with Southwest and Pacific Southwest, the airline that had the most discipline survived and succeeded in the coming decades. The one that strayed from the core principles was the one that struggled.

Perhaps the bigger takeaway is having the ability to understand yourself. Self-awareness. Being able to see why you succeed and why you fail and being able to stick with the formula that works.