Business strategy can seem complicated and scary, and many consultants have a vested interest in furthering that myth. As a result many businesspeople sit frozen like a possum in the headlights, knowing their current industry position is intolerable but terrified of stepping out and making an even bigger mistake. 

This is a stark contrast to the way we deeply admire leaders like Rod Drury (Xero), Elon Musk (Tesla, Spacex, PayPal), Steve Jobs (Apple, Pixar), Cecilia and James Robinson, Nadia Lim, Carlos Bagrie and Theresa Gattung (My Food Bag), etc. for being prepared to embrace completely different business strategies. 

Despite this admiration, we often see businesspeople who employ exactly the opposite characteristics. To quote Elon Musk, “There is a tremendous bias against taking risk. Everyone is trying to optimise their ass-covering.”

We see business-people afraid to make big decisions, and to carve new visions for their businesses in ‘clear blue ocean’ away from competitors. Instead they try not to take too big risks and instead protect their jobs and their stock options. At its worst, some play politics to keep rivals down or just carve out incremental improvements within the existing industry rules.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. Today I am going to share a few key insights to help you stack the odds of business success in your favour.  

Rule 1: Re-invent your industry! And re-frame the competitive dynamics

If you want to really to succeed in business, you need to ‘break the rules’. Or to quote one of my favourite investors David Gardner (of Motley Fool fame), “If you’re not the lead husky the view never changes”. Think about that pithy statement for a minute… If you are not re-framing (or re-inventing) your industry you are doomed to be a follower. Or in plain language ‘if you aren’t currently bossing your industry, you are probably being bossed’.

It’s a truth that I have seen play out time and again over the years as a professional strategy and marketing consultant and as an investor, both in its negative and positive form. To reinvent an industry and own it requires unique insight, visionary leadership, innovation, and courage.

We see it internationally with the big famous examples of Netflix, Amazon, Apple. Companies that weren’t obsessed with reactive moves in response to competitors, but who instead reinvented their industry by creating an amazing customer experience and being creative in the way they have communicated their story. 

We see it in Australia with companies like:

  • Cochlear: who pioneered the hearing implant;
  • Altium: who have been and continue to be fore-runners in simplifying the PCB design process; and 
  • Nanosonics: who are reinventing infection prevention in hospitals.

As a proud New Zealander we see it in ‘God’s Own’ through companies like:

  • Xero: who not only took accounting software into the cloud but changed the whole way accountants interact with their clients, not to mention their clever marketing via the Xerocon conferences (a mix between a TedX talk and rock concert for accountants); 
  • Fisher & Paykel Healthcare: a business I had an inside look into as an employee for 6.5 years, who are re-inventing the way respiratory care is being delivered in hospitals; and  
  • Volpara: whose cloud-based software are assisting in the early detection of breast cancer; and 
  • My Food Bag: a business who turned grocery shopping on it’s head via the delivery of at home meal kits.

These companies re-wrote (or are re-writing) the rules of their industries and by doing this have bought themselves years worth of competitive advantage by pulling so far out in front of the incumbent industry leaders. 

Rule 2: Obsessive customer centricity

We probably all know that part of the answer lies in customer centricity. As Jeff Bezos of Amazon is quoted as saying “The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company”. 

But many businesses struggle to deeply engage with their customers, to understand their deep frustrations and to paint an exciting new future. It is also worth acknowledging that customer centricity and vision isn’t enough. Business requires courage. It can seem so scary. So here is a few things to bear in mind.

Rule 3: You have to speculate to accumulate 

You cannot eliminate all risk. My uncle, a very successful businessman and investor, subscribes to the maxim, ‘you have to speculate to accumulate’. Or to quote the ‘Good Book,’ ‘you reap what you sow.’ While that applies in the way we treat others, it also applies of course in business. As a businessperson you cannot reap the harvest without planting the seeds of your future business success. 

I deal with many capable business-people who are so focussed on operations that they aren’t planting any seeds. It’s worth pausing to think about your last working week and ask yourself the question, “How many ‘seeds’ have you planted for your business this year that will produce the harvests of tomorrow?” 

Rule 4: You can tilt the odds of success in your favour

To quote one of my first bosses, “business requires courage, you’ve got to stick your neck out.” But even though it involves risk taking, business needn’t be scary. Re-inventing your industry need not be just a shot in the dark. Peter Lynch, manager of the best-performing mutual fund in the world, famously said, “Investing without research is like playing stud poker without looking at the cards.” Yet I meet companies every week who haven’t had deeep customer conversations for years. It’s no wonder that those business are struggling against stiff competition. 

At Resonance we have decades of experience in uncovering deep customer needs, insights and customer understanding that significantly tilt the odds in your favour; insights that business leaders can use as a foundation for re-inventing your industry. We are highly experienced in all facets of business success, from vision and strategy, to leadership and culture, to innovation, marketing and branding, so you can become the lead husky and enjoy your new view as an industry leader. If you are interested in learning how to do it, feel free to get in touch today.

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