Six Principles to Build a Unique Business

As business owners, leaders and professionals we are constantly instructed to differentiate our products and services.  Despite the best efforts of many they become “me to” businesses adopting what the market leaders are doing without establishing what unique value they offer customers or incorporating the necessary activities to truly operate a unique business like the market leaders.

Companies and professionals who have developed a unique market position have done this in a methodical manner over time and not by accident.  The following six principles are characteristics of businesses and professionals who have successfully differentiated themselves a unique businesses in the marketplace.

Whether you are trying to be a low-cost provider (Costco, IKEA), product or innovation leader (Microsoft, Apple, Cisco) or a service leader (Nordstrom, Lexus, Walt Disney) your success in being unique will be directly tied to successfully implementing these principles, which, may also be referred to as your key success factors.

Vision
A clear vision of what the business is to become is a corner stone in the foundation of unique business success.  Vision establishes the reference point for determining strategy, articulating value, basis for defining the principles of the organization, and the foundation for decision making. Vision is what the business will strive to be in the future.

The mark of a successful vision is when you can successfully explain it to your intended audience in no more than 5 minutes.

Story
Successfully communicating your message to customers that you would like to build a long-term relationship with is dependant upon successfully articulating your story.  Not a story of where the business came from but where your vision is going to take the customer and how they will value from their relationship with you.  The story explains the value proposition that you offer a company engaging in using your products and/or services in terms that they can equate with value.

Too many businesses and professionals make the mistake of constructing the story from their capabilities and leave it up to the prospective customer to calculate the long-term value of the relationship. The result is an unpredictable value evaluation and understanding of the story by the “buying” customer and poor differentiation by the “selling” business.

Strategy
Strategies represent what activities the business is committed to that will move the business toward the vision.  While few customers will drill down to what the specific strategies are of a particular business they will equate current and near term actions (market performance, delivery experience, references) with how consistent they are with the stated vision.

If you publish a vision then it is wise to commit to the strategies that have been developed to support the vision. Trying to disguise what your strategies are because company leadership is ineffective in aligning behind the right strategies will not work over time.  Your best and valued customers are most likely shrewd and prudent buyers and will see the inconsistencies between vision (future promise) and current actions (real intent).

Resources
Aligning the resources of your business (finances, people, partners, supply chain, equipment) to support your strategies is not only critical to being able to reach the vision but also has a direct effect on the attitude and culture of the business.  If the leadership and, more critically, line employees see that resources of the business are properly deployed then you see a high level of commitment to strive toward the vision.  Excitement is high, dedication is evident and employees feel part of the process, which has tremendous impact on the customer experience.
Feedback Systems
Internal and external feedback systems are essential for any organization to be able to monitor progress toward fulfillment of the vision.  An annual report by itself does not do it.  Aggressive examination (KPI’s) of operations, employee performance and conduct, and customer reaction to not only products but also total customer experience as well.

Market trends, merging technology and markets must also be monitored to determine their impact upon near and long-term vision objectives.  Incorporating knowledge into the vision process, as it appears, can help sharpen the vision, hasten vision fulfillment or extend the vision into a new and high value direction.

Action
A high achieving organization is one that acts on information that indicates a change is needed to correct a product defect, an unpredictable customer experience or operations that are not meeting customer expectations.  Creating a vision, establishing strategies, aligning resources and setting up solid feedback systems are wasted if the business does not know when to act to conditions that are in conflict with their objectives.

This is the responsibility of leadership team.  Not that they are to do all of the action but to enable an environment that allows responsible individuals to make decisions and take action to resolve issues that left unattended would affect company performance, image, brand and customer relationships.

Summary
Don’t become a “me to” company by going through the motions and mimicking what you see leaders in the market doing without adopting these principles.  The result will be a charade – and your employes and customers will see it for what it is!

Take the time and do your home work and develop a vision of where you want to be in the future that will create a unique value proposition to develop long term business relationships and business growth.  This is a constant (not part time) process and requires diligence, focus and commitment to make sure that the organization:

  • Executes its strategies.
  • Resources are aligned properly.
  • Feedback systems are active and monitored.
  • Responds to input that requires action.

Successfully achieving a well thought out vision will provide that unique market value proposition that you seek.

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