Selling Sunset

Commercial distancing in business is deliberately embracing the race to the top to avoid the congestion of undervalued work and underpriced products.

Selling Sunset
Capital Thinking | Selling Sunset

Capital Thinking  •  Issue #598  •  View online

A few months ago, we drove downtown to attend the Chicago Auto Show. My son turns 16 late this summer, so we’re in the market to buy my wife a new car.

We have a modest budget, so we spent most of our time looking at cars that would be reasonably priced. As we weaved our way through that group—Honda, Toyota, Ford, and Jeep—one particular exhibit caught my eye: Genesis.

I couldn’t help but wander over to see what the fuss was all about. It was a small exhibit—with just a few cars—and it was nestled away in the corner of the room. I almost didn’t see it, but there were a lot of people and found myself intrigued.

The cars were quite beautiful, and their pricing reflected that. When Shelly asked how much they cost, I smiled and said, “You won’t be driving one. They are way too expensive for us.”

-Brian Gardner

Commercial Distancing: The Race to the Top

Brian Gardner:

Aside from running, there are two other ways I spend my free time: YouTube and Netflix.

I love music (insert Taylor Swift potshot here), and I’m also a fan of binging mediocre television shows via streaming services that establish high valuations based on suckers like me willing to pay monthly.

With that said, I have a confession to make: This past weekend, I blew through the entire first season of Selling Sunset. And I didn’t think twice while doing so.

Call it a moment of weakness. Call it a guilty pleasure. Call it what you want, but I couldn’t *not* watch this show.

I’ll place full blame on my southern Californian roots, so let’s bypass any judgment.

Besides, Selling Sunset is quite entertaining.

From the show’s description, which says everything you need to know:

Selling real estate in the Los Angeles market can be glorious, given the area’s sunny location and an abundance of the rich and famous living there. It can also be cutthroat as agents fight over clients and properties.

Selling Sunset showcases the drama at The Oppenheim Group, where elite real estate brokers sell the luxurious life to their affluent buyers.

I live neither a luxurious life nor do I consider myself an affluent buyer, but I do know they exist—affluent buyers, that is.

They buy $60,000 crossover SUVs, and some even spend $20,000,000 on 3,000 square foot homes in the hills of West Hollywood. Because the views are *cough* worth it.

Different tiers exist in business, whether it be the automobile or real estate industry, something more granular like the food or clothing industry, and even in sectors of technology and software.

The latter hits close to home for obvious reasons, and I spent some time—quite a bit, actually—this weekend thinking about it. I create technology products, offer services around software, and consult on both.

A particular phrase kept popping up in my head throughout my weekend of contemplation and consumption of a show that left me scratching my head. For whatever reason, I can’t stop thinking about it. It just won’t go away.

Today, I’m claiming to have invented it: Commercial distancing.

What is Commercial Distancing?

Commercial distancing in business is deliberately embracing the race to the top to avoid the congestion and frustration of undervalued work and underpriced products in any given market.

A term coined on May 18, 2020, by serial entrepreneur and designer Brian Gardner, commercial distancing is inspired by social distancing, a phrase used during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Exits 3rd person.)

I have spent the last 15 years in the technology industry and have witnessed entrepreneurs and small businesses trying to “one-up” their competition by reducing their rates or lowering their product prices. It often feels like a rat race.

Commercial distancers enjoy the freedom to price as they see fit, which often results in less competition and a more spacious economic atmosphere.

Seth Godin penned a piece, aptly named, The race to the bottom. He writes:

“There’s always the opportunity to cut a corner, sacrifice lifestyle quality, and suck it up as we race to grab a little more market share. But the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.”

It’s hard for me to believe that Selling Sunset—paired with my experience at the Chicago Auto Show—took me to business school, reminding me of what some might consider Economics 101: Supply and demand.

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