Is Your Business Competitively Fit?

Richard Shrapnel's 'Is Your Business Competitively Fit?'

If you were asked to consider the ability of an athlete to successfully compete in an event, you would look to their current level of fitness as one indicator. Whatever that level of fitness may be, you would expect them to continue to strengthen it. Your business is no different. The likelihood of success in its chosen markets turns even more so on its level of competitive fitness.


Active Knowledge Question:

How would you measure the competitive fitness of your business?



Your fitness can be defined as the state of your physical conditioning and level of health. It can also be seen as your suitability for a particular role or task. In business, competitive fitness really covers both of these aspects.

What markets are you seeking to access and compete in? Are you fit enough to compete in them? Do you have what it takes to outcompete everyone else in that marketplace? These are the questions that business leaders typically consider in assessing their likelihood of success in a particular market. But are they actually considering the right aspects of fitness?

Let’s look to an individual sporting athlete set to take part in a competition as an example. We would probably consider their technical skills in whatever sport they compete in, their physical fitness for that sport, their mental strength, emotional state and their hunger to win. But for that athlete on the day, whether they win or not, will depend upon a whole range of outcomes, many of which they have no control over.  This includes the state of their competitors, the conditions they are playing in, the calls of the referee/umpire and how well they are able to bring all they have to offer together on the day.

Shift your thinking over to a team event and you have now multiplied all of the above by the number of team members playing. Their capability on that day, the conditions they are faced with, lined up against that of the other team. It’s now become a lot more complex.

In sporting events as an athlete, whether individually or as a team member, you:

  • Continually develop your technical skills so they become natural reflexes that are executed subconsciously in the right way at the right time.
  • Hone your mental strength so that you always focus on the game with clarity and are not distracted.
  • Build a self-image that supports your ability to always deliver your best.
  • Compete to perform at your absolute best, and
  • If you are part of a team, you work in unison with all the other team members, to support the team competing at their absolute best.

To compete in business is no different.

Whether you win on the day or not will depend on whether you did all of the above better than your competitor. Yes, to win may be a matter of ‘kicking more goals’, but what counts is what will allow you to do that better than any of your competitors.

As a coach, I can shout all day long that ‘I want more goals’, but my focus must be on what will allow my team to consistently, every week, kick those goals. Solve that, and l won’t have to shout anymore.


Fitness In Business

‘Profit, profit, profit – I need more profit and I need it in this next quarter. Get out there and get more sales and deliver the result we promised. I don’t care what it takes, just do it.’

In business, we often shout for more profit (aka goals) and stop there.  When we do have the time to think about competitiveness, we tend to think of the product or service we deliver and compare it against our competitors. It’s almost as if we compare our football against the other team’s football, rather than our own capacity to play.

We often look to all the external aspects of the competitive game we play but not what allows us to play that game better.

Competitive fitness in business is about our ability to compete. If you want more profit, then focus on fitness, not the ‘goals kicked’. In business, it is a team sport where we need all members of the team playing their part to their utmost capability.

In business, profit is an outcome, an outcome of being able to deliver more value to our customers than our competitors. In business, we compete around customer value. Therefore, the question becomes one of how to build the capability of your business to create and deliver more customer value than anyone else.

The question then is one of how fit do you want your business to be? For me, that standard is decisive – decisive competitiveness.

Being decisive is not about catching up. Being decisive means setting the rules of the game and moving on before competitors even know the game has changed. I describe this capability as being competitively fit.


Competitively Fit

Competitiveness is the ability of your business to deliver on what it takes to win. Winning in business is all about delivering greater customer value than anyone else. It is about adaptability and agility but, more importantly, it’s about identifying where that greater value lies tomorrow.

There exists within your business, whether you recognise it or not, a competitive engine that determines whether your business performs well or continuously trips over its own feet. It is operating every moment of every day and influencing every aspect of your business’s performance. Your every action impacts how this engine runs, again whether you recognise it or not. The engine is formed the moment you begin to think about starting your business and continues for the entire life of your business.

You must recognise the engine in your business, how it is built and how to tune all of its operating parts. If you focus on the engine, then all the performance issues that exist in your business will begin to disappear. Suddenly you will achieve performance beyond your wildest expectations.


Your Competitive Engine

Here is an extract from one of my recent articles, ‘Seeding Your Start-up With Competitiveness’. It summarises the elements of your engine.

The elements of making a competitive business are:

  1. Start with a worthy leader who has an idea. An idea focused on a need in the community that they believe is unfilled.
  2. Turn that idea into a purpose to create a business. A purpose that will provide an enduring direction for the business and will also define the character and nature of that business.
  3. Acknowledge and accept the role of business in our society. One that is not firstly premised around profit and wealth but sustained by an identified need, which can be met. This is where motive emerges and either supports purpose or clashes with it.
  4. Reach out and connect with a team of people who may want to join you in delivering on your purpose and in meeting the community need that you see.
  5. Craft a vision with that connected team and share it widely. Ensure that it is a vision that excites and energises.
  6. Build a shared culture with your team that you as a leader support. This will allow you to deliver on the character and nature of the business required to bring value to the identified community.
  7. Strengthen this core of leadership, team, purpose, vision and culture, as it will form the enduring basis of competitiveness in your business.
  8. Confirm your customer focus and deepen your understanding of the community’s needs.
  9. Assess your capability to deliver value to that community at a level that will allow you to outcompete others in your chosen marketplace.
  10. Craft a competitive strategy (around direction, alignment and focus) that will lift your capabilities to the forefront and allow you to deliver the necessary value.
  11. Energise and reward your connected team to deliver on the purpose and value.
  12. Remove barriers to performance and growth.

Finally, continually refine and strengthen all the elements of your engine to compound its competitive strength. Now watch as your business steps forward and leaves every competitor behind.

To build and sustain a competitively fit business you need to recognise that you are seeking to take your business to an entirely new level of performance. You must ensure that you are measuring the right metrics to continue to improve that performance.


Understanding your business’s level of competitive fitness and working each of its elements is the one task that will underpin the enduring performance and success of your business.


An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel