Your competitive advantage is important. It is what makes your company unique, and what sets it apart from similar enterprises. It acts as an obstacle which your competitors must overcome in order to encroach on your current market. In many occasions, it’s the difference between success and failure.
However, I have seen certain instances where competitive advantage is an ‘Achilles heel’, and can act as an impediment to business growth. You’re probably wondering how that is possible. How can a competitive advantage become a weakness? Quite simply, your competitive advantage becomes a problem when you are unable to duplicate, develop and scale the very elements that make your business successful.
An Example of How Your Competitive Advantage Can Prove Problematic
Here’s an example of how this can happen. Let’s say a business starts up in the services industry. It is usually made up of the founders of the business; who are doing most, if not all the legwork in sales, operations and delivery. As the business grows, it makes a name of itself in the marketplace; due perhaps to its exemplary customer service and strong relationships formed in the course of marketing.
Such relationships are formed initially by people interacting directly with the founders of the company, who appreciate them for who they are. As time passes, the company grows and the marketing department requires more people to maintain and grow the business. However, if they are unable to hire a team that can maintain the goodwill already developed in current business relationships, not to mention generate new ones, then the ability to grow the business in that area starts to slow, or the existing goodwill in the business begins to deteriorate.
The situation is made more challenging if you require specialised knowledge in order to effectively relate to and communicate in the industry. Finding suitable candidates with the ability to do the work to the same standards as the original founders of the organisation can be challenging.
Resolving the Issue
So how can one ensure that a competitive advantage does not develop into a weakness? The answer: Through Strategy, Priority, and Systems.
Strategy – Identify what is making your company grow. Why do your customers ‘buy-in’ your business? Once you have identified the areas that identify your competitive advantage, you can proceed to ‘capture the essence’ of it when you expand and scale the business.
Priority – Many businesses focus on how to achieve growth. However, not all actually realise that it is more difficult to ‘preserve the status quo’ when you expand. They fail to realise that managing a team of 5 versus 50 can be different, and preserving the quality of work and character of the business is a challenge. Prioritising your resources and planning how to keep your culture and ethos of doing business is vital if you want to maintain your advantage as you grow.
Systemising – There are many ways to go about systemising a process, but how do you systemise a culture and ethos of a business? Quite simply, this is achieved through your mission statement and an effective communication methodology. Your operations should be systemised according to the values that the business is founded upon.
Identifying what really makes your business successful, and being able to communicate this effectively, will provide you with clarity as to the type of personality and competency you require for your future team.
It’s time to ask yourself, has your competitive advantage become your weakness? And if so, how are you going to work on turning the situation around?