Sustaining the competitive fitness of your business is a continuing effort. Never can you allow the investment into its competitiveness to falter. To ask what your business thirsts for is to ask what is lacking or missing that will allow it to sustain its competitive strength and take it to another level. Your business’s competitiveness is the catalyst of its success in the market and of any profits that may arise.
Active Knowledge Question:
How do you sustain and strengthen the competitiveness of your business?
The analogy is an easy one to which we can all relate. Miss a couple of classes at your favourite workout place, and your strength and flexibility will have noticeably diminished next time you train. And the analogy can continue:
- Do the same exercises week after week, and your body will become so used to this routine that your strength will flatten out and may even diminish.
- Lift the same weights every workout, and your strength will not grow.
- Switch to a new exercise routine or sport, and your body will let you know that it’s doing things it’s not used to, but it will love the new challenge.
- Push too hard with poor technique and injure yourself, and you will regret the time-out and the period it takes to recover and rebuild.
- Listen carefully to the messages that your body sends you about strain and recovery, and your strength will continue to grow.
- Have an informed and intelligent approach to your overall health, invest in it, and your fitness will continue to improve, and everything you aspire to achieve in your life will be open to you.
I do not believe any of the above statements will be of a surprise; most of us have a good appreciation of health and exercise, although our lifestyle choices may hinder their achievement. But the same perspective can and should be applied to our businesses.
Our Businesses Compete
Our businesses compete every moment of every day to meet the needs of customers. We compete around the value we are able to deliver into their needs.
But our context of competitiveness is often limited to the external aspects – new products, new services, new markets, more customers, reducing costs. You could almost say that as we may sometimes look for the new trainer or gym as the answer to our fitness failings, we in business look to these external answers to build what we see as business competitiveness.
A key point here is that profits are not the measure of competitiveness; they are one of the outcomes of competitiveness. Just because a business delivered on its forecast or budget does not mean that it performed well. If the potential of the business is far greater than what is being contributed into the marketplace, then it is not being particularly competitive. It could have delivered a far greater profit if it had applied all of its potential competitive strength.
So, as we begin to consider this question of the competitive strength of your business, we are asking, ‘are we mustering and applying the real potential of the business’? Or, again by analogy, are we simply lifting weights that are well within our limits and not trying particularly hard?
In last week’s newsletter, we considered the application of ‘Sports Psychology, But For Businesses’. That article provides an overview of the competitive engine that exists in every business and which sets the floor and ceiling to its performance. It will provide an insight into the elements that determine the competitiveness of a business.
If your leadership team do not have a framework for assessing and influencing the competitiveness of your business, the competitive engine is that framework; an informed and intelligent approach. A framework of the underlying catalysts of competitiveness, the catalysts that will enable your business to create the new products/services, discover the new markets, win new customers and identify cost savings without destroying customer value.
It’s an interesting question, ‘what does your business thirst for?’ Thirst reflects a need, but a need that may cause your business to lack and to be weakened. Thirst can be viewed as a longing, a craving, a yearning or even something that it is eager for.
An approach to the journey of viewing the competitive engine of your business and its level of competitiveness is to ask and answer, ‘what does the business thirst for’? What is our business calling out for that we are not hearing or not answering?
Here are four key areas of thirst which commonly exist in businesses:
1. Why Work For You?
I would start this reflection with the simple question, ‘why are people working for us’? If the answer is something like, ‘it’s a job and they need the money’ then you can be assured that the level of contribution will be at the bottom of the scale. The first area in which to ensure there is no thirst is the ‘pull’ that draws people to not only want to work in your business but to be able to give all of their talent and effort into that opportunity.
I would class this as a thirst for purpose. Why does your business exist? What needs in the community is it seeking to fulfil? What motive permeates everything the business does?
The purpose needs to be righteous, and one in which everyone working in the business may feel pride in undertaking.
I would note at this point that money/profit/wealth is unlikely to be the right response to a thirst. Suppose someone is working with you because of the monetary rewards. In this case, they will match their effort to their perceived value of that reward. And will likely leave as soon as someone offers them more money and will be led by self-interest. This is precisely the type of person you do not want in your business at any level and especially in leadership.
Does your business thirst for a righteous and compelling reason for its existence?
The next thirst to consider is vision, which reflects the journey that the business is on; or what I prefer to call its quest. Stepping out of purpose must be a compelling and enticing vision that will draw everyone to say, ‘this is a journey I must be part of’.
Your vision may well seem impossible, but that is what is going to draw the greatest talent out of those who have joined on your quest. It will likely be around a future view of your customers and their needs and how you can completely remake their world and the value their receive by using your product/service.
Does your business thirst for a vision that is so compelling that it simply must be attained?
The culture of your business is its personality. It is the personality that permeates the community comprising the people within your business. It is a culture aligned with purpose, empowering the vision quest and supports the best of the best working with the best.
Does your business thirst for a culture that brings its potential, the potential of every single person, to the forefront?
The capability to deliver a greater customer value than anyone else in your marketplace. A capability that will enable the vision to be pursued and purpose fulfilled. An investment in continuously compounding capability throughout the entire organisation.
Does your business thirst for investment in capability?
Two additional points:
- The reward structure that exists in your business must be equitable, fair and available to everyone across the entire business and delivered to those individuals who participate and contribute. Note to those individuals who participate and contribute and not someone further up the organisational structure.
- The role of leaders must be to ‘enable’, that is, to enable every person within the business to contribute their utmost talent and effort.
Turning back to our opening analogy:
- Purpose – There is a compelling reason why I workout every day, and that gets me out of bed and giving my utmost when I arrive at the gym.
- Vision – I have a clear image, a vision, of what my life will be like when I reach my training goals, and I am committed to achieving that outcome.
- Culture – My go-to workout place has a great atmosphere and is full of people who are as committed as I am, and the staff there are only ever full of encouragement and support. When I walk into that place, I just fire up.
- Capability – I mix it up, that’s my workout programme. I never want to fall into the routine of same-old, same-old. Better every day is my mantra, and I am continuously improving my skills.
No business is going to sustain and certainly won’t grow, its competitive fitness without a clear investment strategy. And that doesn’t necessarily mean more money expended; rather, it means leadership focused on what the business thirsts for. That is, those areas that seed, unleash and feed competitiveness and ensuring that these thirsts are satisfied.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,