At the Competitive Edge

Competition is a huge subject, but the real action takes place at the edge. Your business can have the world's greatest strategy, but it's the last mile--the actions of your employees--that will make, or break, your success.


The Recipe for Success

Of all the recipes for winning a lead over rivals, the first and last rule is "think customer." But, it's about more than just being customer focused.


The trick is to get every member of your organization, right down to the shop floor and reception desk, focused on what drives the customer and how your organization can positively impact the customer's life.

It's about creating an attitude-and behaviors-that permeate the whole business, reaching every employee and attending to every detail. It's about building an internal culture of continuously analyzing and consistently delivering on the customer's needs, expectations, and aspirations.


Your Culture is Your Brand

To dominate at the competitive edge, your employees must function within a carefully crafted corporate culture-a culture that creates an obsession for delivering value to the customer. You must also provide a compelling vision, a grand mission that gives your people a clear sense of direction and a belief that you can be the #1 player in your industry.

When every person in your business shares common beliefs, values and goals, it creates a powerful force…an organization that will not tolerate anything less than exceptional performance. The beauty of this type of culture is that it becomes self-regulating, turning your business into one that consistently does the right things. Positive beliefs become positive actions. And these positive actions build your reputation for excellence, both inside and outside the organization. Ultimately, the culture becomes who you are, your brand, and your competitive edge.

So how do you create your carefully crafted culture?

  1. Clearly define your core values, making "customer obsession" a key component of who you are and what you do.
  2. Articulate a compelling corporate mission, a true sense of purpose that tells others the value you bring to the world.
  3. Set grand goals, significant objectives that you will have to stretch to achieve.
  4. Hire for fit. You can teach people new skills, but changing their values is significantly more difficult, if not impossible.
  5. Manage to your values. Never tolerate anything less than 100% commitment (in words and actions) to your beliefs and goals.
  6. Support your culture through your compensation plans and reward systems.
  7. Reinforce your culture with regular celebrations of your successes and public reminders of your vision, mission, and core values.


Build Innovation into Your Culture

Innovation is vital in maintaining your competitive edge. To insure that innovation is always a part of your company's culture you need to:


  • Initiate constant research to help you understand, anticipate, and meet your customer's expectations.
  • Encourage creativity in producing your products, in developing your processes, in your communication, in marketing and logistics, and in virtually every other facet of your company's operations.
  • Generate enthusiasm for innovation by continually seeking input from your employees and rewarding their creative ideas at every level.
  • Publicize the ideas that lead to innovative changes and improvements.
  • Celebrate innovation as a mark of accomplishment.


Leverage Technology

Make IT your culture enabler. Harness the power of your IT function to learn more about your customers, learn faster, encourage creative discussion, and share your "corporate knowledge." For example:


  • CRM applications - While the hype of CRM has often failed to match the reality, the challenge is to find ways to use these applications to create more robust sources of customer knowledge. This knowledge can include information about customer purchases, preferences, attitudes and perceptions that can be analyzed to improve the delivery of future customer value.
  • Intranets - make your customer knowledge more accessible to more people with less effort. Encourage greater participation in brainstorming and other forms of creative and innovative thinking.
  • Extranets - get your customers more involved with your organization on a regular basis to make them an integral part of your decision-making processes. Create online communities that forge bonds between your employees and your customers.

The goal is to use technology in ways that will enhance your ability to respond to customer needs-whether it's through faster service, lower costs or better innovation and responsiveness to problems.


People are the Key

At the competitive edge the real difference is people. They're the ones who implement your plans. They're the ones who interact with your customers. And their consistent performance will be the key to your long-term success.


As a leader in your organization, you need to manage your workforce strategies aggressively. Be proactive in determining exactly who you need to hire and where you will find the talent. Avoid making compromises in your hiring decisions. Be ruthless in your management, never tolerating anything less than exceptional performance. Your attention to the details that drive culture will keep your business razor-sharp at the competitive edge.