Here's Looking At You Kid

by

Opportunity is staring you in the face. Are you looking? More importantly, are you comprehending and identifying the boundless scope for development right now? Look no further than your main competitor. It is he, she or they who provide insights on how best to formulate and implement new initiatives into uncontested and attractive areas.

It is not too harsh to declare that many competitive entities are burdened by inertia, price discounting, cost cutting moves - including inventory and staff reductions, offers of give-a-ways and the repetition of boring, predictable campaigns. The widespread distressed state of business is often caused or exacerbated by the actions of business owners and executives. Sadly, staff-members are quick to identify and copy inappropriate behavioural and strategy traits.

Since 1988, Australia's Woolworths supermarket network has progressively developed from being in supermarkets, to retailing, to supply chain management and now they are leading the charge to relationship marketing.

The current philosophy will enable the group of companies to capitalise on the customer relationships which have been established and to cross-promote and sell-in to the other non-competitive service and product providers.

Coles is currently winning the supermarket battle. Sadly, it still lags in its evolutionary development and will continue to be profit constrained.

Many book retailers can and should reject the proposition that book shops will soon be replaced by on-line book sellers.

For those astute book retailers who have looked the competitive forces in the face, it is evident that the real threat is from those bookshops which have an appealing, informative and functional on-line presence with an easy-to-navigate website.

The attributes of "local" presence and "personal" customer service are strong and sustainable competitive advantages.

KNOW THY COMPETITOR

Now is the time to embrace the philosophy of being a contrarian. That is, doing what the others aren't. It involves risks, which cannot be eliminated but can be managed. It will require confidence in one's own ability and capacity and the need to invest in those qualities.

In short, it's time to "dare to be different".

Conformity within a product range or industry sector leads to non-differentiated commoditisation and overall mediocrity. It can be safe and non-threatening, but hardly inspiring or profitable.

Entrepreneurs, game changing business leaders and elite sportspeople live on the edge. It is exhilarating, adrenalin pumping and, yes, often exhausting. The rewards are immense and the demands for optimal performance-exacting. In each instance, consistently high performers study closely and know intimately the practices, policies, styles and preparation regimes of those whom they want and need to beat if they are to fulfil their own dreams, ideals and goals.

They then diligently formulate, document and implement their own, differentiated strategies.

DISPEL THE 1% BELIEF

Sporting coaches of old and business coaches or mentors have long espoused their beliefs in the "one percents". That is, the little things that "champions", cum winners, do constantly to gain and maintain an advantage.

The contemporary global community in which we all live and operate from seldom recognises and rewards 1% variance. For example, mining company chairpersons and chief executives tend to be well versed and qualified in finance and geology. With the current price levels for iron ore, uranium and energy (in its various forms) those skill sets have contributed marginally to the record profits being enjoyed by the many operating mines and the operators of those raw commodities holdings.

Interesting to most and disturbing to some, the Chinese who represent the largest market for Australian ores and energy, are seeking more and more investments in Australia resource entities. The buying criteria are not solely gross profit sums and Price: Equity ratios. The Chinese government and investors are seeking continuity of supply and security of supply.

Therefore, astute mining industry leaders and aspiring leaders will, should and indeed, must look their competitors and peers in the face and then determine largely unrecognised avenues for advantage and exploitation.

For example, how would Lindsay Fox of Linfox Logistics and Paul Little from Toll Holdings - two of Australia's and the world's leading authorities on supply chain management - operate and develop Australian mining companies?

Neither would, I am sure, be constrained by any suggestion of a series of "one percenters". In looking competitors in the face, one should also determine what business are they or should they be in. The appropriate answer may not be obvious.

Perhaps, we all need to dispel the seemingly underlying beliefs in and adherence to the "traditional", the "established" and the proven ways of doing business and being in business, if one wishes to stay in business.

A good start to identifying which is the best avenue for enhancement is to look in the mirror and to recite the words: -

"Here's looking at you, kid."


About

Barry Urquhart, MD Marketing Focus, Perth, is the author of Australia's top two selling books on customer service and is an internationally recognised authority on consumer behaviour and creative visual marketing.

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