Expectations For Your Business

As this year closes out and the following year begins to emerge, what are your expectations for your business? The last two years have been one of challenge and uncertainty on many fronts, no matter what business you may have been in. Many leaders are looking forward to being able to place that season behind them and strike out afresh. But what foundations may you need to set to provide a solid base for growth?


Active Knowledge Question:

What plans do you have for the New Year, and have you shared them?


Seeding Expectations

As the new year dawns and businesses shake off the past two years, charging headlong into expansion plans may be a fatal mistake. As also would be assuming everything will move back to a historical norm. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a ‘historical norm’ given markets and consumers are always continually evolving.

When I think of businesses emerging out of restrictive COVID-19 lockdowns, the words that come to mind are – restore, solidify, strengthen, change and create. And these sit right beside a second set of terms – balance, season, investment, aspirations, opportunity, purpose and catalysts.

Many business leaders are thinking of expansion to recapture lost revenue and restore profits. And hitting the ground running with everyone going into overdrive to make sure this happens. But I am not sure that the engines that drive businesses are ready to hit the ground running. Instead, I think many businesses need to re-tune their engines and allow a period of time for the competitive strength of their businesses to be rebuilt before striking out on any aggressive growth plans.

A testing of the competitive readiness of your business can be undertaken by speaking into your expectations widely and listening carefully to what is said and not said in response. Listening may well create a roadmap of the preparation required to rebuild the competitive strength of your business.

Rebuilding Competitive Fitness

The core competitive strength of a business does not lie in any physical assets, locations, intellectual property, customer base, data, or some right, domain or platform. Instead, its competitive strength rests firmly in the combined talent and effort of every single person who works within and with your business. It is their presence in your business that allows you to compete and outcompete. And that strength is mustered and focused through the elements of the competitive engine in your business. 

In every business, there is a competitive engine that sets the floor and ceiling to its success. And that engine operates and sets the level of competitiveness whether you are aware of it and seek to influence it or not. It is, of course, better that you be mindful of it and work to strengthen its performance.

Briefly, the elements of your competitive engine are:

  1. It all starts with purpose: Define the customer need for which your business was and is established to meet, that is, its purpose. Lock in this cornerstone and reset the motive as one to compete, not one of profiteering. This will jar the organisation into an alternate alignment and begin to shake up almost everything you will want to change for the business to become competitively fit. 
  2. Leadership and relationships cement it: ‘Worthy leadership’ becomes the key requirement, self-interest is out, and leaders are repositioned to be at the centre of the business, not at the top. Evaluate and adjust your leadership team accordingly. Trust and engagement become key leadership goals, and relationships begin to be rebuilt. Trust takes time and must be earned, and the remainder of the elements in the engine will likely need to be addressed before leaders are believed and fully trusted.
  3. Vision provides direction, and culture is the glue: Strike the quest for the business consistent with purpose and motive. Create the images and stories and begin to move the business towards that vision. Success, for everyone, should now be clearly defined as supporting the business becoming more competitively fit. Culture will be taking shape around the newly defined purpose, motive, leadership, and vision. 
  4. Out of purpose comes need, which is guided by and guides capability. Customer need/value is now positioned as the number one priority, and the business orientates its perspective to focus in and on that need and value. The business is redesigned around that need and value, and a new competitive posture (strategy) is developed to support the business outcompeting everyone else. 
  5. Rewards are the fuel: Reward programs are redesigned to uplift the right behaviour and block bad behaviour. To attract and retain the best of the best, working at their best and are available to all equally. 
  6. Most importantly, all barriers must be removed so that rewards may be enjoyed: The engine will have already self-cleansed many of the barriers, but the question to ask yourself, what is preventing the business from becoming even more competitively fit? Then ensuring those barriers are removed. 
  7. Measure, monitor performance and adjust: It is not a set and forget exercise nor a veneer. Fundamentally, the way you view and influence the performance of your business has changed. You are now focused on the catalysts, the elements of your competitive engine, and seeking to relate all outcomes back to those catalysts. 


The above list of elements of the competitive engine provides a checklist that you can use to ensure your business is ready to compete:

  • There are five core elements that determine the competitive fitness of a business. Plus, an additional three elements that set focus and two further elements that either power up or power down that level of fitness – core, focus and fuel. 
  • Look to the ‘right character’ for each of the five core elements and seek to refine and strengthen each of them – purpose and motive, leadership, relationships, vision, and culture. 
  • Does your competitive posture strike the right balance between need, capability and value? 
  • Is the business designed – its organisational structure – to deliver on the competitive posture, and are you rewarding the right behaviour? Or are barriers blocking performance? 
  • View your business as an elite athlete. Stop counting the medals (code for profit) and start asking, what will lift our capability to win and where do we need to strengthen ourselves? 
  • Use the lens of the competitive engine to assess your fitness. You will know the areas in which you need to invest in strengthening your competitive fitness. 


As you prepare for the New Year to emerge, begin to communicate your expectations succinctly. Then, listen with humility to the spoken and unspoken responses and tune your business’s competitive engine to prepare it to compete to its fullest potential.

An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel