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Sometimes … Less is More!

Have you ever been to a restaurant with such a long menu that you were overwhelmed with choice? Somehow, you don’t feel as certain about the excellence of each and every item as you do when you go a restaurant specializing in just a handful of tantalizing dishes. You feel confident that this unique restaurant has mastered those recipes and will provide you a product and service that is different and exceptional. As Leonardo said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

But, in this fast-paced world, we often find ourselves wearing a multitude of hats. It’s easy to become the “Jack of all trades but the Jill of none!” This idea of feeling like we must know how to do everything, less we be seen as inept, is a pretty heavy burden to carry. And, I’m afraid it extends into our businesses, particularly in the world of entrepreneurs.

You start off with one particular idea, product or service and then in your enthusiasm, you become like a kid in a candy store. Its just perfect for one group of people and then your attention wanders and its perfect for another group. Pretty soon, you have convinced yourself that your product or service is perfect for the entire world! Whoa baby, come back to the world of reality – you are entering very dangerous territory.

In my “Ready to Launch” program for social entrepreneurs we do a deep dive on exactly what the core competencies of their businesses are. Strategically, either from a business perspective or a social impact perspective, it is important to understand the unique value your company brings to the table. Thus, you must be clear about its core competencies, the capabilities that differentiate your business from your competitors.

They are distinctive, give it a competitive advantage and are hard for competitors to copy or emulate. For example, Apple is known for outstanding design. When you think about Google, you know that their core competency is the understanding and development of algorithms. Walmart is known for its supply chain management and Sony’s core competence is in miniaturization and precision manufacturing.

Strong core competencies come from a clear understanding of where you plan to go, why you want to go there and how you are going to get there within an ethical framework you are comfortable with. I would suggest that you start by pulling out your vision, mission, and value statements and reviewing them with fresh eyes and the lens of uniqueness. If you are stuck on the drafting of these foundational pillars, take a look at some of my previous blogs or reach out to me for help.

One of the first steps is to be clear about your organizational structure and the skills and talents that every member of your team provides in their particular role. Although this might seem like a pretty large task, in the initial phases of a company, its relatively easy to see who does what and how they get the job done. Do their skills and talents and the work they provide directly align with your defined core competency? Quite frankly, tasks that fall outside should probably be outsourced to other vendors who consider those tasks to be part of their own core competencies.

At the same time, you need to have a clear understanding of your products and services, what they do and how they perform. And, you must have a full competitive analysis of where they stand in the market place. What sets them apart and why? Do not do this in a vacuum! Talk to your customers, your investors, do web research and ask your employees. It’s critical that you have a high-level view of where you stand with as much data as possible.

With the “what” (unique product) and the “how” (skilled team), you can now clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Having a clear understanding of core competencies is important for organizations so that they can devote their resources to areas where they can truly add value for the customer. They also act as a strong reminder to be relevant at all times. If a core competency is no longer needed in the market, it may be time to tack.

And finally, don’t forget that in order for core competencies to “stick”, they must be continually used, nurtured and talked about. Both your internal stakeholders (team, investors) and your external stakeholders (customers, vendors, community) need to be reminded of what they are through your day to day business practices and routine training. In addition, are they reflected in internal communications such as newsletters to your employees and reports to your investors? Do they show up on your website or other marketing materials so that the rest of the world knows what they are?

Ultimately, is your brand distinctive or run of the mill? Do we have any idea what you are exceptional at?

Copyright © 2018 Linda Lattimore – all rights reserved

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