Pieter Scholtz

Focus drifted from your core competitive advantage?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had a number of meetings and discussions with colleagues and clients on the subject of business success and what sets some business owners apart from others.

Time and time again, the outcome of these discussions get back to the importance of sticking to the basics, particularly when operating in markets that are experiencing high levels of uncertainty locally and globally.  

On several occasions, I have seen business owners lurch from one idea to the next in order to obtain growth in their businesses and what has become patently clear is that very little THINKING has gone into planning for growth and success. This often results in your team being more confused about the priorities within the business. In uncertain or volatile times, providing some level of stability to your team is of paramount importance.   

In his book “The Road Less Stupid”, Keith Cunningham (one of my favorite business authors) unpacks what he refers to as the “Triangle of Death”. Here he discusses the need to develop a Success Proposition as opposed to the traditional value proposition. A success proposition describes how your business will attract, retain, and deepen the relationship with the core group of your target customers. Your success proposition communicates to your customers, not only your promise to them, but also dictates the internal priorities and skills that you and your team must master to deliver to that promise.  

Keith goes onto suggest that there are three primary success propositions:

  1. Operational Excellence – where the focus is on costs, speed, and/or quantity of selection. 
  2. Customer Intimacy – where the focus is on both the quality of the relationship with the customer and exceptional customer service. 
  3. Product Leadership – where the focus is on innovation, functionality, features and overall design and performance of the product.  

Having said the above – the mistake that many business owners make is attempting to be all things to all people.  Trying to do this is a death trap.  

Successful companies attempt to excel at only one of the above propositions, maintain parity at the second and usually ignore the third.  

You can be successful in business by focussing on any of the three propositions, but you must prioritise one and then organise the business to master the skill set and internal processes required to deliver on your promise.  

It is thus very important to spend decent time defining which one of these propositions you are going to focus on, then to build the business to support that and be disciplined and consistent in the implementation of the documented plan to deliver that.  

Failure to do so will result in you jumping from one product to the next, from one system to the next and in so doing create confusion in the market as well as within your team. 

You can’t be important everywhere, but you can be important where it counts.  

Some critical questions to ask in the process:

  • Who is your target market?
  • What is your promise to them?
  • How is your promise differentiated or distinct (Scott McCain) from your competitors?
  • How is this communicated to the market across all platforms?
  • How will you know that this promise is being successfully delivered?
  • Where have you let your focus drift from the CORE competitive advantage that you have defined?
  • Is this core difference between the competition and yourself significant enough to cause potential customers to start using you? 
  • How does your target customer define success? 
  • Where are internal priorities and operational focus mis-aligned with the promise you have made to your customers?
  • Which internal priorities do you need to strengthen to be able to successfully deliver on your promise?
  • Where are you internally prioritising (optimising) for something you have NOT promised?

You must invest THINKING and PLANNING time to avoid the deathtrap. Make this a priority even though it is difficult. It is a different form of leverage. Careful thinking and planning require an investment in time, but it will save you many more hours later on as well as keep you focused on that which delivers value to your clients and in turn make you money as a result.  

#pieterspath #strategy #actioncoachsa


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