In each of his companies, Vaccaro has moved quickly to discern a singular purpose before pursuing it with relentless ambition.
Vaccaro’s uncompromising focus speaks for itself:
In three years as founder and CEO, Brainchild Distributions (BCD) moved from a college apartment to three storefronts and $8 million in sales.
In two years, Vaccaro patented a rolling telephone network and successfully licensed its business model to other retailers as “E-Company in a Box.”
In two years as Lew Racing’s CEO, the company moved from startup to the forerunner in lightweight cycling technology, providing the USA Cycling’s 2008 Olympic Team with its landmark wheel set.
In the bestselling book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins applies the fable of the fox and the hedgehog to business leadership. Lee Vaccaro is a hedghog.
The fox is in a hurry to get ahead. He rushes around, from one great idea to the next, disregarding the consequences of constantly changing direction. However, the hedgehog understands the importance of focus. If a new product or idea will not blend well with what the company is already doing, it is discarded.
To the casual observer, the fox should win the race. But, without a clear vision and true long-term goals, foxes come and go in the world of business on a daily basis. It’s the hedgehog that sets one goal and develops a plan to reach it. It’s the hedgehog that becomes an expert at one thing.
A fox would’ve kept BCD’s chain of successful retail stores expanding. A fox would’ve taken their inventory and thrown it up on a website hoping consumers would follow along.
But Vaccaro knew the company’s success didn’t come from selling the cheapest computer parts. He knew they had built a massive base of return customers by making them comfortable with their purchases. Vaccaro knew the dot coms use of “monopoly money” would kill retail stores by selling below cost, so he had no problem shutting them down. In doing so, he was able to take a step back and apply what made BCD successful to a model of e-commerce. BCD 2000 retained the human touch that made its predecessor successful through a patented rolling telephone network and real-time online chat with support.
When he met inventor Paul Lew, Vaccaro fell in love with the possibilities of Lew’s carbon-fiber technology. However, he correctly identified that Lew was spread too thin, trying to apply the technology across too many markets. It wasn’t that the technology didn’t work, it was simply clear to Vaccaro that everything needed to be pared down in order to succeed. He tapped into Lew’s passion to identify their hedgehog principle; the result was Lew Racing, Inc. In a matter of months, the USA Cycling Team acknowledged that the new company had developed the world’s most durable and lightweight wheel set.