How do you grow your business?
There are only two ways. In my work with over 1500 clients spread over nearly 20 years, the only two ways I’ve ever seen used to grow any business in any industry are these:
Grow yourself and grow your people.
All increases in productivity, innovation, profitability, strategic direction, superior service and operational excellence flow from the ability of leaders and their teammates.
The big question then becomes: towards what end are you growing yourself, your people and, ultimately, your business? A common response from many managers is usually something about “being excellent” or “pursuing excellence.” In these competitive times, is that an effective strategy?
No. Excellence isn’t enough.
To prosper in business today you’ve got to go beyond the pursuit of excellence. Excellence in business is a good thing, but it isn’t the best thing. Here’s why:
Excellence is relatively easy to accomplish. A good copycat watches what the industry leader is doing and then does the same things. If you’re only excellent, you’re vulnerable.
Excellence is a moving target. Today’s “excellent” can be next month’s “mediocre.” In a competitive market, the trend is always towards better, so excellence can never be something you attain with finality.
The more excellent you become, the more demanding your customers become. A customer’s expectations increase over time based on previous experience. Getting better drives customer expectations up.
The biggest problem with excellence: it isn’t distinctive. The killer marketplace strategy is to be distinctive: to go beyond excellent to offer something distinct and unique to your company. That way if customers ever go someplace different, they’ll miss the distinction you represent and return.
So what are the marks of distinction?
There are three marks common to all companies who achieve distinction. They are: engaged people, perpetual innovation and strategic execution.
It isn’t enough to be passionate. Passion without appropriate focus is fanaticism. Engaged people are involved with their work and compelled to do what they do with panache. The challenge is to get people as engaged about their work as they are about their outside interests and hobbies. Engaged people work smarter, serve better and come up with new ideas.
This includes both incremental and revolutionary improvements. The status quo is a myth. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. I first head Woody Hayes, late coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes say those words over 20 years ago and they are as truer today than ever. Innovation must be applied to everything: operations, products and even how we think and lead.
You can write a million lines of computer code, but until you add the four characters “.exe”, the code is worthless. Business dominance isn’t about how much you know, but how well you apply and execute what you know. It’s a matter of IQ. That doesn’t stand for “intelligence quotient” but rather implementation quotient, and that is the difference between common knowledge and consistent application.
The future will be anything but boring. I hope you share my enthusiasm for challenge, because as business leaders, you have plenty of them. Let me know if you’re interested in having me speak to your management team about what you can do to develop the marks of distinction.