The bad news: we are going to live through the worst economic times since the Thirties Depression. And very possibly worse than that. What has to unwind in the coming years is the enormous debt that America and Britain have accumulated.
So the good times are over for the minute. What does this all mean for your business?
Well here’s the good news: not every business is going to go bust, the smarter businesses will not only survive but actually prosper at the expense of their competitors. These smarter businesses will invest now and continuously to improve their competitive edge.
So what is the competitive edge?
Low cost alone seldom gives you the competitive edge but Ryanair is an exception. Quality at a reasonable price usually counts for more, as in Marks & Spencer, and Apple has established its competitive edge for innovation and the user-friendliness of its products. Indeed when you get to Apple’s stage, the brand alone speaks for your competitive edge. Notice that your product or service doesn’t have to be the best available in the market provided your customers’ experience of your business is quality. Quality means reliability and responsiveness to your customers’ needs.
So to my definition of competitive edge: the perception that a business delivers something different and/or of better quality to its customers. This difference refers to the uniqueness or innovation of your product or service; better quality refers to the quality of your customers’ experience of your business.
Setting aside uniqueness and innovation, how do you develop a competitive edge by giving your customers a quality experience?
When you get down to it, quality is simply about people and process – people design the process and people deliver the process. Improving your people means increasing their skills and knowledge and improving how they get on and communicate internally and externally. This leads to the development of high-performance teams and individuals who are responsive to your customers while maximising their contribution to profits. Developing efficient processes in your business translates to responding to your customers efficiently and accurately which means better bottom-line performance for your business.
Remember: if you do nothing new your business will likely end up doing nothing different or worse. Invest in improving your competitive edge and you have every chance of seeing a rich dividend on your investment in these testing times.