Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #9 Understand and Control your Cost Drivers

Understand and control the Cost Drivers. Much has been said and much is being said about costs and cost control. Yet as you look around after four years of economic hardship and no end in sight, the levels of national, corporate, company and personal debt is at levels which the average mind just cannot take in. At least, mine can’t. It’s as if we haven’t learned a thing from history. The dot com boom and bust of the nineties surely taught us about costs, and yet in less than 10 years many people and companies in the world have created even bigger problems- maybe problems that are so huge they can never be fixed.  A good way of looking at cost is by identifying the drivers of cost in your company. It’s not just the actual cost, fixed or variable, but what actually drives and creates that cost. If you understand the drivers of cost you’re better placed to control cost. This is especially important when you’re trying to grow your business or recover previous lost business and have a significant business growth plan you’re trying to achieve. In the same way that your customers look at the cost you charge for your product/service and try to assess the value of it, you should do the same. Is this worth the money I’m going to have to pay? Will the cost recur? As I sell and develop services are there inherent costs? Will these costs drive other costs somewhere else in the business. A good example is quality – or more precisely the Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ).  As you correct errors, poor quality, it costs you hard cash, time, and negative customer experience. So poor quality, or good not great quality will be a cost driver. It will not appear on your balance sheet or statement of accounts directly, but your margin and bottom line will be negatively impacted. Don’t borrow money unless you have a clear project in mind, with a defined pay back period and a high probability of success.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me:

Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #8 Treat Suppliers more like Partners

Treat suppliers more like partners. It’s another misconception that you need to be able to do everything yourself or in-house. In truth, if you think about this, it cannot possibly be the case. Working with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and forming strong partnerships will significantly increase the expertise available and lock out competitors. In fact, as you use the term partners rather than suppliers, it opens up your mind to other people and groups of people whom you could partner with. For example, interested groups, different stakeholders, using a more joint working, collaborative approach. Whilst finding people with common interests or objectives, or complimentary skills sets/activities/resources can be difficult at first, as you explore common interests and think more about designing win:win solutions, many more opportunities will present themselves. Even working with your competitors is something that is becoming more commonplace and can be quite successful; what is called ‘co-opertition’. Once you get past the ego problem and concerns about trust, you soon find this approach has much to commend it.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me:

Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #7 Identify your Competitive Advantage

Identify and build your Competitive Advantage. There is a common misunderstanding that competitive advantage comes from what you offer your customers, your value proposition. In fact, if you think about this, it’s not true. Competitors can “see” your offering and try to copy or mimic it. What prevents them from stealing your market and customers is your internal ‘capability and capacity’ – the unique way you do things that deliver your offering. By organising and arranging your key activities and key resources you can prevent and deter competitors from copying your offer. According the Porter, the godfather of competitiveness, Competitive Advantage comes from doing something, that is valued by the customer, that is better, faster or cheaper. Developments of this theme now suggest Competitive Differentiation, the ability to be and to offer something different is a valuable form of advantage especially for the small company. Delivering a superior or more appropriate customer experience can create and drive advantage.

Whichever form you decide to follow, Competitive Advantage can and should be identified, measured and its drivers embedded into the processes, procedures and routines of your day-to-day company activities. If all your staff know what your competitive advantage is, then they will be able to deliver against it in a repeatable and sustainable way.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me:

Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #6 Offer a Choice of Delivery Channels

Offer a choice of delivery channels – there is always more than one way to market!  We can learn from successful and failing retailers here. Having a physical shoe shop in the town centre or shopping mall is often the starting point, but the successful few go online retailing whilst others complain about no customers. The dot com boom of the late 90’s and early noughties has frightened a lot of people away from online trading, eCommerce and eBusiness. Seems like a strange thing to say when all we hear from the news is the boom in online trading. Yet, as I work with SMEs, so many of them struggle with eBusiness and eCommerce in particular, often not getting much beyond a pretty flat website. The physical is often call the ‘bricks’ and the online the ‘clicks’. Often what is required is a blended approach, what we could call ‘bricks n clicks’. Another option is too have the full quality and robust version, and the ‘lite’ version, the in person version and the no person ( do it yourself) version, the quick, fast n friendly (not cheap and cheerful!) and personal experience version. Experience tells us not to get hung up on price. Yes, it’s often important, in the top three to five considerations, but not often the #1 consideration.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me:

Another 4 small businesses win Gold Star!

Delivering exceptional customer experience is at the heart of keeping customers happy and returning again and again!

Centre for Competititveness is delighted to announce the latest 4 new EFQM Gold Star Award winners. They are Drenagh Estate, Keady Farm View B & B, Cafe Piaza and FoyleHov. Faghanvale Stables is due to be recognised before the end of July. They are all from the Limavady area.

EFQM Gold Star is a European Benchmark of Better Performance, and it is quite an achievement for these local companies to be recognised at this level.

This programme has been delivered in partnership with Limavady Borough Council, who has supported this initiaitive as part of their programme of support for local tourism businesses. The Centre for Competitiveness is working, on several different programmes, with a number of other councils including Coleraine, Antrim, Lisburn and Banbridge to assist with their economic development strategy. Results are very encouraging.

The Centre has a wide range of tools, methods and experience in business growth and development, and works well in supporting councils with their economic development objectives. It’s a good partnership – a win:win approach that really benefits small, local companies.

You can see the list of all the EFQM Gold Star Award winners here: EFQM Hall of Fame

Dr Adrian Gundy. Innovation, OD and Growth Strategies

Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #5 Build your Customer Relationships

Build your Customer Relationships. In the old days prior to global recession and financial difficulty, marketing people ruled the roost with their marketing communications. Now, it’s more about having a relationship with your customers. I think the picture of a group of people having a noisy conversation in the local pub on a Friday night is a good one. People are talking and listening, exchanging views, changing opinions, arguing, laughing and sharing. And all at the same time! You need to be available to and interact with your customers in much the same way. A good rule of thumb is “speak for two thirds of the time and listen for one third of the time”. This requires you to review how you communicate and gather customer feedback. It’s not easy. If you adopt his simple rule in all your customer communications and interactions, you will gather rich insights and understanding about your customers that will inform you and help you design better product and service solutions that really connect with customers. Over time as you build customer and consumer relationships, these customers will act as advocates for your company and will ‘sell and promote’ to others. The use of social media is a good example of this.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me:

Top 10 Drivers of Competitiveness – #4 Segment your Customers

Segment your customers and understand what each segment wants and needs. Marketing people have been doing this for years; some examples are socio-economic groups, locals and first timers, repeat and special offer buyers, advocates and ambassadors and so on. Try to think of new way of grouping or classifying your customers and consumers. What are some of their similar and dissimilar characteristics? Dig a little deeper and see if you can see discrete small groups of customers, or potential customers, that have similar needs, wants, pain, behaviours and so on. A good approach is to do a customer profiling exercise. Identify a customer that you want to win, or whom you think represents a discrete group, and draw a customer profile. Give them a name and a persona. Where do they live and work, what do they do, what are their issues and day to day concerns, what does success for them look like, what keeps them awake at night, where will they be in 3 to 5 years time. As you get under the skin of the customer, you start to see it more from their point of view, and this gives rise to new and rich insights that will inform your design of the value proposition that is just right for them.

Why not check out the other 9? If you would like to discuss with me how I could help you design your business growth strategy please contact me: