3 STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE
A leaking boat is a sinking boat. When the leak becomes too big to ignore, it is plugged but it is the small leaks that in the long term have the most damaging effect on a boat.
Similarly, small inefficiencies in business seem trivial and ignored when a business is in an early stage of development but as a business grows, the impact of those ignored inefficiencies become significant – sinking the opportunity of maintaining sustainable growth. Business owners and managers get so caught up in the journey to business growth and profitability that they forget to plug any ‘leaks’ they encounter along the way.
Profit and business growth are vital and without them, a business often perishes. However, with technological advancement and competitors biting at the heels, the difference between an industry leader that maintains that position and one that fails is the presence of a sustainable competitive edge. There are three key factors a business needs to maintain a competitive edge.
1. Compete against yourself
Keeping an eye on competitors is necessary but using their strategic decisions as a benchmark leads to a reactive strategy that allows them to take the lead.
Henry Ford believed this to be true and said: “Competition whose motive is merely to compete, to drive some other fellow out, never carries very far. The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all but goes on making his own business better all the time.”
Instead of a reactive strategy, aim for a proactive strategy.
If all you just try to be better than the competitor, you are constantly waiting for them to change before you do. Competing against yourself allows you to continuously improve without getting caught in a reactive innovation spiral.
To be better than the rest you must start by being better than yourself.
2. ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’… is it better to do nothing?
Legacy processes are the cause of many delays and bottlenecks in business. Their presence creates an opportunity for optimization and sometimes disruption. Many industries have fallen victim to disruption. One such industry is the finance industry. After Pay, Zip Money, Split It and many more companies are shaking up the credit card industry by providing convenient and quick access to microloans with simple and low-interest payment terms. Their actions are stimulating the retail industry and seizing considerable market share from credit card vendors. The original ‘gorillas’ of the finance industry are now actively turning to innovation to respond.
Likewise, the taxi industry – for years they coasted without being held accountable for exorbitant fees and charges and providing below par customer service. It took Uber no time at all to flip the industry on its head and snare a significant portion of the market. Now there are several more competitors (Lyft, Ola, Didi, Curb to name a few) providing the same service and the taxi industry is desperately trying to catch up by turning to innovation.
These are two prime examples of industries that followed the adage ‘if it is not broken, don’t fix it’ – ignoring the need for innovation, assuming nothing will change and the certainty of their position.
Businesses must look at their operations through the lens of innovation. If you are not the first to find and test your own flaws, someone else will. Settling for the status-quo is a sure-fire way to lose your competitive edge and a slippery slope to oblivion.
3. Let technology help you
As we endure through this turbulent time, businesses should be considering what strategic goals to set and how to bounce back. Wishing for improved results on the P&L financial statement is the easy part. But how can it be achieved?
Albert Einstein famously said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The same theory applies to business – how can improved results be achieved without making changes to the formula? Adding technology to the formula brings a new dimension and offers countless opportunities to achieve improved results.
Use this time at home to look at your operations, any areas of your business that fall under the ‘we have always done it that way’ mantra should be the first to be reviewed. Compete with yourself, appraise and test legacy processes and implement carefully chosen technology solutions to assist you to realize your goals, maintain your competitive edge and achieve sustainable growth.