In a world of everything overload, it becomes increasingly hard and difficult to get done what we plan to do. This is more pronounced in business.
Get to virtually all the institutions you find around, you will believe with me that the game of sameness depict them all.
Hardly will you find one or two that are different in what they do.
That’s a difficult question to get a simple answer to. But I will do my best to address some of the important ingredients that make you and your business stand out in the world of sameness and ensure you succeed in what you do.
An interview featured you among five hundred (500) other applicants, and you all are competing for two (2) vacancies!
What makes you so special to deserve one of the posts?”
While five hundred might be an exaggeration, what’s not an exaggeration is that lots of other people can and want to have your dream job.
For anything desirable, there’s competition: a ticket to a championship game, the arm of an attractive man or woman, admission to a good university, access to paying customers and every good professional opportunity.
Can you imagine how many people are doing the same thing as you now? Or have you not taken enough time to think about that?
The truth is you’ve got others competing for the few wallets as you.
Being better than the competition is basic to you as an entrepreneur. It determines your survival.
In every niche, every business competes over a single customer’s naira.
Remember yourself as the applicant. If you want to chart a course that differentiates you from others in the marketplace, the first step is being able to complete the sentence:
“A company hires me over other professionals because ………………..…”
How are you first, only, faster, better, or cheaper than other people who want to do what you’re doing in the world? What are you offering that’s hard to come by? What are you offering that’s both rare and valuable?
The point is how can you add more values to the company more than every other professional. That’s the only ‘language’ the employer understands at that moment of your interview. They care less about you as a person.
Screw this and your chance of being selected suffers.
Definitely, you should be used to those words as used in the corporate world. The competition is always fierce!
But as a small business owner, you don’t need to be better or faster or cheaper than everyone. Businesses, after all, don’t compete in every product category or offer every conceivable service.
You can ensure your success in business without unnecessary competition by creating new category for yourself in your industry.
Check out this book ‘21 laws of Immutable marketing’ by Strout.
My Smart Way of Utilising Competitive Intelligence for Success
In life, there are multiple gold medals. If you try to be the best at everything and better than everyone (that is, if you believe success means ascending one global, mega leaderboard), you’ll be the best at nothing and better than no one.
Instead, compete in local contests—local not just in terms of geography but also in terms of industry segment and skill set.
In other words, don’t try to be the greatest marketing executive in the world; try to be the greatest marketing executive of small-to-midsize business that compete in the health-care industry.
Don’t just try to be the best graphic designer in Africa, even in Nigeria. (Remember those types of vision statements?)
And keep in mind that the “market” is not an abstract thing. It consists of the people who make decisions that affect you and whose needs you must serve: your boss, your co-workers, your clients, your direct reports, and others.
How badly do they need what you have to offer, and if they need it, do you offer value that’s better than the competition?
Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or how passionate you are about an aspiration: If someone won’t pay you for your services in the career marketplace, it’s going to be a very hard labour. You aren’t entitled to anything.
Developing a key skill, for example, doesn’t automatically give you a competitive edge. Just because you’re good at something (assets) that you’re really passionate about (aspirations) doesn’t necessarily mean someone will pay you to do it (market realities). After all, what if someone else can do the same thing for lower pay or do it more reliably? Or what if there’s no demand for the skill to begin with? Not much of a competitive advantage.
Following your passions also doesn’t automatically lead to career flourishing. What if you’re passionate but not competent, relative to others? Finally, being a slave to market realities isn’t sustainable.
A shortage of nurses in hospitals-meaning there’s demand for credentialed nurses—doesn’t mean you should get on the nursing track. No matter what the demand, you’re not going to be most competitive unless your own passions and strengths are in play.
Try to be a top-notch problem solver in a way that’s aligned with your values so that you can sustain your work over the long run.
Three Puzzle Pieces That Inform Your Direction And Competitive Advantage
There is a formula I have adopted and used with proven success for me and my clients. And that is what ‘The Experts’ use to make the money.
It’s not difficult, but need your discipline.
First is the YOU. For you to record success in this, you must know how to think for yourself and think straight. You must become a better entrepreneur.
Don’t be fooled by the promise of ready-made business in –a –box solutions to making you money. They don’t work.
Why? Because, most of the parts that ensure your success are not your own original thinking, which most times are not suited to your own personality. Those behind them worked based on their own taught and level of operation.
When you’re just starting out for yourself, it’s important you know how to think straight and avoid any promise of easy success.
Having addressed that, the next thing to have for you to succeed is what I call “The Litmus Check”. It consists of three things which must work harmoniously, otherwise nothing but failure will happen.
- Your Assets
- Your Core Values/Philosophies
- Market Realities
Your competitive advantage is formed by the interplay of three different, ever-changing forces: your assets (knowledge, skills, experiences, passion and hobbies), your aspirations/values, and the market realities, i.e., the supply and demand for what you offer the marketplace relative to the competition.
The best direction has you pursuing worthy aspirations, using your assets, while navigating the market realities.
This is represented in the diagram below.
Assets are what you have right now (knowledge, skills, experiences, passion and hobbies). Before dreaming about the future or making plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you—as entrepreneurs do. The most brilliant business idea is often the one that builds on the founders’ existing assets in the most brilliant way.
For you to succeed, your business goals must emerge from your strengths, interests, and network of contacts.
You have two types of assets to keep track of: soft and hard. Soft assets are things you can’t trade directly for money. They’re the intangible contributors to career success: the knowledge and information in your brain; professional connections and the trust you’ve built up with them; skills you’ve mastered; your reputation and personal brand; your strengths (things that come easily to you).
Hard assets are things the cash in your wallet; the stocks you own; physical possessions like your desk and laptop, your smart phone.
Soft assets are ultimately more important, I believe, because with them you can build the hard assets. Someone once said “One of the best ways to remember how rich you are is in intangible wealth – that is, the value of your soft assets.
Your Aspirations and Values
Aspirations and values are the second consideration. Aspirations include your deepest wishes, ideas, goals, and vision of the future, regardless of the state of the external world or your existing asset mix.
This piece of the puzzle includes your core values, or what’s important to you in life, be it knowledge, autonomy, money, integrity, power, and so on.
You may not be able to achieve all your aspirations or build a life that incorporates all your values. And they will certainly change over time. But you should at least orient yourself in the direction of a pole star, even if it changes.
Aspirations and values are both important pieces of your career competitive advantage quite simply because when you’re doing work you care about, you are able to work harder and better. The person who is passionate about what he or she is doing will outwork and outlast the guy motivated solely by making money.
Accept the uncertainty, especially early on. I, for example, know I value transparency and trying to change real people’s lives through entrepreneurship and writing—though in what specific ways, I’m still figuring out. And, that’s the truth. It will continue to evolve as long as I’m in the game.
The Market Realities
Smart entrepreneurs know a product won’t make money if customers don’t want or need it, regardless of how slick its form and function. Likewise. . . .
“Your skills, experiences, and other soft assets. . . no matter how special you think they are, won’t give you an edge unless they meet the needs of a paying market”. … Reid Hoffman – Cofounder and Chairman of Linkedin
You should not just launch your business on a whim. You should do everything in your power to understand the dynamics of the market you are entering.
Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or how passionate you are about an aspiration: If someone won’t pay you for your services in the marketplace, it’s going to be a very hard labour.
A very good example of this is someone who is talented or knowledgeable in craft. He is very good at wood works, and he makes slates (little wooden pieces used to write in primary schools some years back). He aspires to dominate the slate making industry, and become the sole supplier of slates to primary schools in Nigeria.
What do you think will happen to this guy?
No matter how aesthetic his work could be, it’s sure he will fail. This is because his assets combined with his values and aspirations do not conform to the market realities.
Instead, he should have been thinking of introducing white boards to those schools.
Another one is if you are a graphic designer, a shortage of nurses in hospitals, meaning there’s demand for credentialed nurses – doesn’t mean you should get on the nursing track. No matter what the demand, you’re not going to be most competitive unless your own passions and strengths are in play.
Just having a skill or passion does not guarantee you any result. You’ve got to marry the other two pillars and ensure there is harmony among them.
Also note that for any desirable desires; building profitable business like this is not an exception. Many entrepreneurs compete over a single customer’s money. More so, the business environment is full of craps and hypes that aim at getting customers to act on impulse.
If you differentiate yourself from the competition by genuinely helping your customers, you will succeed.
Can I have your take on this? Would you consider those three important things identified already?
Kindly share in the comment box below.