No, I’m not going to tell you that your business is a circus!  Although you may think it is some days…

Instead, I want to talk about the world’s newest billionaire, Ken Feld, who owns Ringling Brothers. Feld’s family has been in the circus business for nearly 50 years and in that time he has built the business into a diversified live entertainment business.

What struck me about Feld’s story is that when I think of the circus I think of something hopelessly out of date and with a small potential market. I also think of a circus as something that is formulaic and basically a commodity. Think about it: three rings, acrobats, clowns, animal acts, fire eaters, etc. All circuses have the same product and we all know what it is. Prices are about the cost of a movie.

Commodity.

How does someone become a billionaire, i.e., successful, in a commodity business?

According to his biographer, Ernest Albrecht, Feld’s success is “an eagerness to try and do new things.” Feld’s daughter, who works in the business, told Forbes Magazine, “We realized that the circus has survived this long because it’s always been able to adapt and be contemporary.”

Hmmm.

“Adapt.” “Contemporary.” “Try new things.”

Maybe there is a lesson here for the traditional insurance agency as we face the increased commoditization of our products.

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