Peter Sheahan & Julie Williamson, Karrikins Group
As you look around your industry, your market, and your customer base, are you confident you are creating the most value possible? Are you delivering an experience and a product that solves an important need for your customers? Or have you perhaps let that slip as you’ve perfected your ‘cash cow’, driving operational costs down and increasing margin through volume and pricing? It is an easy place to go – many companies have great opportunities to make a lot of money riding out a winner for as long as possible. The problem with it is best summed up in one word: complacency.
Shaking off complacency and moving into a place where you matter more – to your customers, your employees, your industry, and your shareholder – can be a huge challenge, but if you don’t, you risk a downward spiral into survival mode. Depending on where you are in your career, you might make it to retirement with that approach, but your company might not survive the decade.
To matter more, you need to find your edge of disruption – that place from which you can bring the best of who you are and what you do together with the disruptions happening in your market. From that unique vantage point, you can solve the problems that are most important to your customers and reshape your industry to meet emerging needs.
Doing that requires being willing to challenge deeply held assumptions about how you do business – and not just with your customers. Look at your supply chain, your distribution model, and your partners. Are they stuck in the past, or moving to the future? You need to surround yourself with an ecosystem that is evolving, not one that is stagnating.
As you are challenging assumptions, you need to create clarity in your point of view. Have a position on the most important issues in your industry, and work towards creating change where necessary. As you do that, open the door for your customers to co-create solutions with you. Create an environment where you are known for discovering rather than for knowing. In today’s world, things move too fast to hang your hat on what you know now – you need to be on a continual journey of discovery.
If you want to be known for discovery, and for bringing people on that journey, you need great relationships. Start with your customers. Work with customers who want to see you succeed and who you want to see succeed. Say no to the ones who aren’t willing to be a part of something bigger. This is especially true in business to business arrangements, but it also impacts consumers. There may be segments you just don’t want to worry about, so you can do amazing things for the segments who support what you are trying to do. When you free yourself from the challenge of satisfying everyone, you can create exceptional value and matter more to the right customers.
Don’t stop with your customers, though. Be the convener for your industry – the company that has to be at the table when big decisions are being made. Extend your influence and work to see the whole board – know what impacts ripple through the system and help control or amplify them. Matter in the industry in a way that no one else does.
And finally, be willing to answer the call. As you see success from your efforts, be worthy of the position you have in the industry. When you have influence, use it in ways that will create positive change. If it can happen in the paper industry, in the diamond industry, and in financial services, it can happen anywhere, if people are committed and determined to find a way.
Any company can choose to matter more – big or small, legacy or start up, local or global, all have the potential. You have to be willing to stay open to the world around you, to know what’s going out outside your four walls, and to have a burning ambition to be more to the people who matter most to you – your customers, your employees, and others in your system. If you do, you will matter more.
About the Authors
Peter Sheahan, Group CEO and Founder of global consultancy Karrikins Group, is known internationally for his innovative business thinking and thought leadership. In addition to being a leading business author, Peter has been named one of the “25 Most Influential Speakers” by the National Speakers Association and is the youngest member to have ever been inducted into the Association’s “Hall of Fame”.
Julie Williamson, PHD, is a Vice President with Karrikins Group, responsible for strategy and research. She is a leading voice in how organizations link together communication, design, strategy, sales, marketing and service to deliver sustainable growth.