In a sector where competitors are stagnant, one company manages double digit growth.
In an economy where growth is slight, one company manages record EBITDA.
In the industry where margins are razor thin, one company stands apart from the rest.
What is going on? Luck? Fortune?
In working with company leaders, I have found that one trait more than any other makes the difference in breaking the barrier to successful implementation: Focus.
A company that is focused is led by a leader who is laser focused on the critical few challenge areas the company needs to overcome to become the industry favorite. As a result of the leadership focus, the teams of people charged with the responsibility for specific area projects and goals are also focused and have a sense of purpose instilled toward achieving the goal.
What does a focused company look like?
About 10 years ago, I met an entrepreneur who at the time was running a medium sized business that offered very good products and quality service for fair market prices. The entrepreneur however, differed from many others in that having a successful midlevel business was unacceptable. The goal was to have the best business as measured by the industry, by market share, and by profitability. The entrepreneur understood this wasn’t a battle that could be won alone or through renegade actions and rather that the entrepreneur needed to act as a leader, as the true CEO, and guide teams towards focused success.
Over the years this company has grown to one of the largest and more importantly, most respected organizations in their industry, and is frequently the first choice employees want to work for. As the organization grew, they opened production around the world, sales offices in all the most relevant markets, and strategically made consistent decisions including the acquisitions and partner choices that propelled sustainable growth. What they didn’t do is stray into other competencies far from their world class strengths. The development, while rapid, was sustainable as it was built on the core competencies, beliefs, and values of the organization- they stayed focused on the vital few that made the difference.
A focused company is often identifiable by what they do not offer as much as by what they do offer. Strategic choices are reflected in the products and markets served and in the investments and capabilities the company is developing around the world. The focused company furthermore, has customers choosing them due to their excellence and recognition, which is earned throughout the industries they serve, because this company provides something more to stakeholders.
How does a company “get” focus?
The temptation within many firms as they expand is to attempt to be all things to all customers, to be everywhere and provide everything- often what I call “me too” products and services. The underlying logic of “me too” products and services is commonly that because a competitor or competitors provide certain products and services your firm must do so as well. How to avoid the temptation?
- Ensure common agreement on core competencies- what is the firm is really very good at- and do customers agree and are they willingly pay for this competency?
- Define what the future will look like- where growth will come from, what assumptions this growth plan is based on, and what investments and returns are to be expected?
- Be Realistic about risks- both in the industries currently served and the future proposals for service- what risks will the firm face and what challenges will be difficult and resource consuming to overcome?
- Revisit your core values, basic beliefs, and vision- what is it that you, your firm, and all your stakeholders believe in and how is this reflected in the choices the company is making moving forward?
- Drive with Strategy and not with short term economic reprieves- ensure your balance for future sustainability has a higher emphasis than the short term economic goals from becoming yet another “me too” casualty.
Once the focus is there, communicate it to everyone: your investors, your customers, your employees, your suppliers, and let them know this is where the firm is headed and why you are the best suited firm to win the business of your customers around the world. The focused company when on the right track is very hard to stop, and will earn the right to business formerly held by competitors. The danger of dilution is the single largest barrier to overcome in successful implementation- once there is the (right) focus, the fun begins!
Learn more about how Thinking Dimensions Global helps companies to get focused and stay focused: