Several weeks ago I posted a blog article about Ray Bard’s model of where to fish called “Ponds, Oceans, or Wells of Water“. If you recall there are four segments where you can fish. The first is a puddle. You will not find any fish in a puddle. This is a low-felt needs small market. The second area is a swamp. This is a larger market but is still low-felt need. All you catch there is catfish and carp. The third place you can fish is the ocean. You can find big, big, big fish but they are usually pretty difficult to locate and catch.

The best place to fish, as you’ll recall from the article, is a well or what I like to call the fish hatchery. Here there is a strong–felt need and a tightly constrained market.

Now keep all this in mind as I tell you about a trip I took this past week to the middle of nowhere. 

If I were to define the middle of nowhere it would be Sidney, Nebraska. After landing in Denver we drove for almost three hours, finally arriving at a little Podunk town on a windswept plain.

The only thing going for this town quite frankly is the company Cabela’s. Cabela’s was actually formed in 1961 by Dick and Mary Cabela who were selling hand-tied flies at the time. Their big break came when they began offering five hand-tied flies and charged twenty-five cents postage and handling. It took and the company known as Cabela’s was born.

As I spent time with Cabela executives it became very evident to me that strong values permeated their culture. I’ve said it many times, but let me say it again: What you say ‘No’ to is more important than what you say ‘Yes’ to in the long run. It is easy to define success based on values and the easiest way to do that is by screening and sticking to your values.

I started exploring this about an hour or so into our meeting with Cabela’s and I was able to discover Cabela’s core values. Here they are:

1.    Superior Customer Service
2.    Respect for Individuals
3.    Quality Goods and Services
4.    Integrity and Honesty
5.    Excellence in Performance

These are Cabela’s value statements. You have to ask yourself, “How can a company be three hours in the middle of nowhere in a cold, desolate climate and still rock an entire industry? After all, Cabela’s is the leader in this industry.” After talking with them I found that the answer is very simple.

1.    They fished in a well. They specifically went fishing in a strong-felt need area in a very tightly controlled market.
2.    They declared their value constraints and have not deviated. And by not deviating from it they’ve been able to be a dominant force in the market on all levels.

I gained a lot of respect for Cabela’s and realized at the same time that we can follow their lead. It takes time but us bootstrappers and zigzagging entrepreneurs need to make sure that we cleanly and clearly define our core values and then stick to them. This is what gives us long-term durability in the market. Go forward, Zigzaggers and find your own success in the middle of nowhere.