Often heard as a topic of conversation near the water cooler is that of “competitive advantage.” Companies up in lights are lauded for their “differentiated offering” and run of the mill business fade into history for not developing one themselves.
My time at a very successful investment bank has underlined the realisation that competitive advantages are of such critical importance to businesses being successful. We analyse industries and companies until the wee hours of the night, and the champions of industry always share that one common denominator – a strong competitive advantage.
Bring to mind your last trip to the flea market and think about how average the experience was. You most probably walked the lines of stalls looking at heaps of similar products – wooden hippos and rip-off-brand t-shirts everywhere. In contrast, think about your favourite product or service on the web and how you’ll keep going back to Gmail or The Fancy because the product is engineered in such a way that nothing else out there can touch it.
So what tends to make for the key ingredients in a successful business differentiator. My sense is that it’s technology, people and innovation. If the business you’re engaging with, or want to work at, has a focus on these three things, you’re bound to be able to ride that wave of success. For example:
- FNB’s investment in their technology platform allows them to deliver new and innovative products to customers quicker and more effectively than other retail banks;
- Bain or McKinsey solve the problems of businessmen and -women that one would imagine think about their own business all day long but cant solve themselves. Their investment in bright people makes all the difference;
- Innovative disruptions continually shake the market when Google releases their new glasses or Apple their latest version of the iPhone
So all good and well – these attributes can be sought out in an employer or supplier, but my question to you is how are you differentiating your skillset, experience and network to be the person that gets called when a dream-team is being assembled?