Several years ago a book entitled Blue Ocean Strategy hit the bookstores and became an international bestseller. The authors (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne) postulated that a strategy of creating or discovering uncontested market space — “blue oceans” ripe for growth — was the only sound and sustainable way for business leaders to enjoy long term success. Probably 95% or more of all companies however, currently compete in “red oceans,” red because shark-like competitors create bloodbaths of slashed prices as every firm competes head-to-head for customers and market share.
In many ways the book was on target. Citing examples such as Cirque du Soleil, eBay, and the Home Depot, and even Chrysler’s minivan, the authors point out how each company altered the landscape of its industry and created an ocean of profits at the time by uncovering hidden, even unknown markets and needs.
Although the book addressed a few organizational hurdles, it largely ignored the most important aspect of any organization: its people.
The right people implement your strategies. They use the right tactics to make the most of every business situation. The right people communicate up and down the organization in ways that foster business success. The right people value each customer interaction. The right people rarely leave because they’re valued and fit within your organization. The right people keep your organizational goals in mind when making decisions. The right people are innovative, creative, and move your company forward.
The RIGHT people are what makes the difference in every company. How many airlines are there? How many software companies? How many building materials stores? How many consultants? How many transportation companies? How many hotels? How many banks? How many IT firms? How many restaurants? Each are operating in red oceans but despite the competition, some companies are thriving. I’d say it isn’t because of what they have going for them but who.
“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” ~ Jim Collins
“But we have super awesome products!” The products you offer or buy from your wholesaler can be bought and resold by someone else … probably for less.
“We’re different because we have an exclusive agreement,” you say. You may have an exclusive agreement but if you’re making good profit, a competitor WILL arrive on the scene and probably at the most inopportune time for you. And their product will most likely have a feature yours doesn’t.
“‘We’re the only ones operating in our geographic area.” If you’re making money, the only thing I can say is, “For now … ”
“We have a unique set of patents.” Your patents will last only so long until they’re imitated, altered just enough to allow someone to compete with you.
“But WE are the kings and queens of ‘service!'” Your service offerings can be duplicated almost instantly, especially if a competitor has the right people in THEIR organization.
““But we have a technological edge.” Oh good, you may be able to last a little longer in your blue ocean but remember that blue oceans are temporary. Any advantage will be copied or otherwise circumvented sooner or later.
Carlos Brito, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, agreed when he spoke to students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business saying, “Competitors can copy your products, but they can’t copy your hiring and retaining of your talent.”
The RIGHT people are your biggest competitive advantage.
So the questions become: “What are you doing to attract, train, develop, and retain the RIGHT people? How do you get the best people, the RIGHT people on board?”
- Are you creating a culture of open communication? How do you measure it? The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s actually taken place.
- Are you creating a culture of accountability and responsibility? How do you measure that?
- Are you empowering your employees to take calculated risks? Are you sure?How do you know? What’s their failure rate?
- Are you up to speed with each employee’s behavioral tendencies and motivations? Have you profiled them behaviorally to insure they “fit” their role in your company or are you still trusting your gut?
- How about your employees business acumen and emotional intelligence? Can you put your hands on that report? Do you even have one?
- Do you know where each employee stands on the Core-Skills List and do you have a development plan for improvement?Have you communicated that plan to supervisors and your employees? Are they on target?
- What steps would you take if you hear that one of your superstars is looking for other employment or is dissatisfied? Do you know that employee’s top three motivators? Can you adjust? Are you sure?
What makes your company different are the people working there. What makes your company different is its culture and way of approaching customers. What makes your company different begins at the top and if a company is to change, its leaders have to change.
What makes your company different is you and the people you choose to work with you.
Original article by Ron Haynes.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net