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Competitive Advantage: 5 Steps To Regaining Your Competitive Edge
Many American business leaders complain that they cannot compete because of the current state of the economy and the massive outsourcing of jobs to other countries. Over the past couple of years, many local newspapers, national publications, and trade publication headlines have been filled with companies that have gone out of business or declared bankruptcy. Many more firms are at risk of bankruptcy and almost all are blaming the current economy for their demise. Many American business leaders have cited increased competition around the world as one of the reasons for these economic conditions. They often complain that they can’t compete with the cheap wage rates found elsewhere, and that they can’t hire enough good workers at a reasonable price to compete here. Managers today complain about these types of problems. President Obama recently addressed this issue in his State of the Union address delivered on January 25, 2011. In his speech he said “And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need the rest of the world to innovate, educate and build. We must make America the best place on earth to do business.” If you have a competitive advantage over your competition, do you think it would change your ability to compete? Doesn’t this allow you to get a fair price and get you out of commodity price wars? I believe it, so now what can you do about it?
What should we do about it?
So the question is how will American business leaders/executives rally to Obama’s call. According to recent studies the United States is still one of the most productive countries in the world, but we are primarily making the most complex products. Therefore many products/services consumed in the United States are imported. Why are we losing so many jobs and buying more foreign goods than domestic? The answer lies in the way most firms compete in their markets. Most firms develop products and services that are already being successfully sold within the market as this reduces their risk. Unfortunately this approach leads to a situation where an organization is viewed as a “me too” organization. It is a firm that must compete primarily on price, or perhaps because it has the highest value for customers. There is no real significant difference between their products/services and their competitor. You need to differentiate yourself so that you are different and unique within the market. As history has proven, if you are the market leader or have a unique competitive position, the price you charge for your products and services is usually not an issue. Just look at the Apple iPhone, the price in the first year is twice as high as in the second year. As other firms started selling their smart phones, Apple was forced to lower the price and started competing on features/functionality and price. Therefore, if your organization creates a competitive advantage it will have a unique economic impact and your competition will be reduced on your organization. This enables you to get a better fair market price for the products and services you provide to your customers, as well as increased loyalty. A competitive advantage can be created by adding innovative features to your product, reducing the cost of production, or introducing a new unique product.
5 steps to create a competitive advantage:
Develop a strategy -You must create a strategic vision that identifies your unique strengths and capabilities that will enable you to develop and deliver using this advantage. Your advantage may be producing a product/service at a lower cost, with greater value to customers, or you may be smarter than the competition. The strategy developed should take the form of an end-state vision that clearly shows how the organization should operate to leverage your unique strengths.
Develop a tactical plan – A good solid tactical plan should be developed to implement the strategic plan. This plan should include the necessary milestones to ensure you realize the vision of the end state. It should also include time frames for when the expected benefits will start to be realized. Additionally, the features/performance timeframes needed to reach the end-state vision are realized. Success criteria should be clearly identified and how you will know when it has been successfully completed.
Implement the plan – This tactical plan must be executed with excellence and efficiency. All milestones should be tracked and the plan revised as conditions dictate. You should ensure that all key performance indicators are identified and how they are tracked.
Execute operations – Once the project is completed and successfully implemented, it must be executed with efficiency and excellence to ensure that all desired outcomes are realized. All operations must be executed with excellence and strictly monitored to ensure that the intended results are realized from these operations.
Check and revise – After implementing a plan, business leaders should check actual results against planned results to ensure they are realizing the expected benefits. Any discrepancies in results need to be analyzed and revisions to operations need to be planned to keep operations on track to achieve the intended results.
Today, organizations cannot sit back and say, “Look at what we’ve accomplished and look how good we are!” There are only two states in the life of an organization, it is growing or dying. There is no such condition. So an organization must constantly strive to improve and find ways to improve their processes and operations to do things better. Otherwise, their competitors pass them by taking away their market share and profits. This development of competitive advantage requires the support of the entire organization. You need the entire organization to work together to ensure that the desired results are achieved. Business leaders/executives should be wary of their organization trying to take the easy way out by adopting current “FAD” software products or the latest management “FAD” techniques. It has never given the firm a sustainable competitive advantage because other firms follow suit and use the same software or gimmick. Typically this approach leads to a price war as products and/or services are commoditized. With no differentiation of these products or services, customers feel no need to be loyal and shop at lower prices. The best approach is to develop your competitive advantage so that you are unique and can engage and retain your customers.
Competitive advantage enables organizations to compete in any economic conditions and or competitive environment. Unique products/services These firms have no early competitors when their products/services are first launched, so they are able to enjoy higher prices. This allows these firms to recover their development costs faster, often gaining customer loyalty and helping them stay strong when competitors start offering similar offerings. Competitive advantage helps any organization succeed in the global market.
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