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It is the spirit of the men and women who follow their leader that gains the victory

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Part 29


For anything significant to happen in an organisation, it is the mind and quality of each individual, as well as the unity of a team effort that produces any meaningful effect. Given the speed of change today, no business will continue to flourish in the future without being receptive to different points of view. 
You have to be open to diverse points of view.

From the guidelines we reviewed in the last few weeks, we can now move forward and set functional rules you can follow to 
create opportunities, while holding off competitors’ interferences.


Do not choose excessive caution
Most often, you can turn a risky competitive situation into a new opportunity by taking measured risks. Based on empirical evidence from a variety of disciplines, this principle points out that where individuals are stalled by lack of ideas and immobilized by fear severe problems can fester.


Apply strength against weakness
The indirect approach is the indisputable principle, the one consistently successful component of a business strategy. It is the core element in creating opportunities.

By applying your weight against a competitor’s weak points, you give yourself an edge. For instance, if you do a better job of solving customers’ problems or in developing products and services and you do so in a manner that your competitor is unable or unwilling to match, you gain a distinct advantage — even against the larger competitor. (The how-to is provided later in our series.)

The indirect approach is the one consistently successful component of a business strategy.


Use speed to secure a competitive lead
Rarely has an overlong, dragged-out campaign proved successful. Exhaustion through the draining of resources damages more companies than almost any other factor. Further, speed doesn’t mean running after every Monday-morning headline or expending resources in an impulsive and indiscriminate manner. It does mean that you have done your research, examined your options, assessed your people’s skills and reviewed the availability of other resources before moving forward.


Deploy, target, segment
Concentrate your resources so that you gain superiority in key segments that you select. Doing so places you in a position whereby you emerge stronger than your competitor. By integrating concentration into your business plans and strategies, you gain the distinct advantage of being able to compete successfully against a larger competitor. (We will discuss in detail about segmentation later.)


Use competitive intelligence 
Collect enough competitive intelligence (CI) to help you pinpoint the behaviour of competing managers, as well as to assess their firm’s physical strengths and weaknesses. This rule connects with indirect strategy and concentration. Remember: Without the input of competitive intelligence there is no reasonable way to implement an indirect or concentration strategy.

It is also worth repeating John D. Rockefeller’s advice: “Next to knowing all about your own business, the best thing to know is all about the other fellow’s business.” (Rockefeller was a United States industrialist who made a fortune in the oil business and gave half of it away for charity)
By integrating CI into your business plans, you can even compete successfully against larger competitors. 


Match business plans with your company culture
Company culture is embedded as the nerve centre of an organisation. It guides how your employees think and react when entangled in a variety of hot spots. A supportive corporate culture sets the tone and is the driver of forward-looking business decisions. It is the shaper of attitudes that generates customer loyalty and ignites employee involvement in seeking out opportunities.

So, stay focused on culture, people and values. It’s the area most likely to get compromised in today’s environment.


Leadership skills determine the outcome of your expansion plans
Leadership is about responsibility, accountability and achieving corporate and business-unit objectives. Leaders inspire their people, organise actions, develop strategies and respond to market and competitive uncertainty with speed and effectiveness.

Do all you can to hone your leadership skills so that they conform to your personal style, the nature of the people you are supervising, the types of short and long-term objectives you are after and the prevailing market conditions you face. That is all by way of saying, there is no one leadership style to fit all internal and external conditions.

As for the long term: If you don’t invest in the future and don’t plan for the future, there won’t be one,
Create a morale advantage
Looking for opportunities also pertains to sensitive issues related to employee morale, discipline and trust. And below that surface is an additional dimension: It is the human heart, the core of human emotion that reigns supreme during times of stress and tough competitive encounters. So that when all else fails, engage the hearts and emotions of your staff to go the extra mile.


Strengthen your decision-making capabilities
No event is a stand-alone occurrence. Therefore, study business history, look at past business events and discover the roots of a problem. Doing so will help to fortify your intuition, enhance your business experience and expand your overall knowledge. The result: You sharpen your decision-making and strategy skills.

Now, let’s narrow the guidelines and rules even further with step-by-step applications in line with actual market conditions.

In the past decades, companies, especially smaller ones, faced a mountain of challenges. The following list of actual problems represents concrete difficulties faced by executives. No doubt some are ones you are facing in one form or another at the present time:
  • How do we sustain growth in a sluggish market?
  • With large organisations tending to dominate an industry, what strategies are possible?
  • How can we identify long-term opportunities, yet manage day-to-day operations?
  • How can we use competitor analysis to justify the time and expense of gathering the information?
  • How do we deal with unscrupulous competitors selling into our market with prices 30 percent to 40 percent below ours?
  • How do we cope with the possibility of our product becoming a dinosaur?
  • How can we solidify customer relationships to block enterprising competitors trying to make inroads against us?
  • What defensive strategies are effective to protect our market share?
  • How can we manoeuvre into a market already occupied by an industry leader?
  • nHow can we justify the high upfront expenditures for new product development with the inevitable drop in prices as our products move rapidly into the mature stage of their life cycles?
  • What strategies can help reverse a steep decline in our company’s sales?
  • As a smaller company, how can we apply customer-driven techniques to grow against dominant competitors?
  • Is there a way to create a competitive advantage in a basic industry heavily dominated by large, low-cost competitors?
  • How do we make the culture of our organisation the centrepiece of our strategy?
  • How do we position our products effectively against the market leader?
  • What strategies can outdistance competitors when entering a new market?
  • What strategies can we use to regain lost market share?
Next week, we will start reviewing what applications should be adapted to solve these issues and problems.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at lionwije@live.com)
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