Roy's Blog: July 2016

July 25, 2016

Your competitive advantage must be more than just hot air

Most companies struggle with defining their competitive advantage claim. What makes them unique; different from their competitors.

They can’t answer the question “Why should I do business with you and NOT your competition?” in a succinct meaningful way.

There are two traps they fall into.

First, they generally speak to the internal capabilities an organization has (what leadership believes are the differentiators) rather than being explicit about how they compare to others in the market. “We provide the highest quality products.”; “Our people are our greatest asset.” They stress technology.

They talk about their size and claim market leadership.

Second, most competitive advantage statements are high level and aspirational in nature. They are not precise and specific enough to communicate how an organization is special among the choices available. “We provide the best value.” “We have been in business for 100 years.” “We offer the lowest prices out there.”

The use of helium filled adjectives often abound. Overused and eye-glazing descriptors like: better, best, top, #1, excellent, great, greatest, lowest, most and so on pervade the advertising airwaves.

A competitive claim must declare the difference between your organization and your competitors AND it must be precise enough so that people can “see” the difference.

You can’t see “greatest” for example and you can’t see “most”. They mean different things to different people.

As the solution, create The ONLY Statement as an element of the Strategic Game Plan:
“We are the ONLY ones that…” is its form.

ONLY must be brief. If it takes you a page of narrative to define your competitive advantage, you don’t have one.

ONLY never includes the “P” word. Claiming a price advantage is a slippery slope as price can be easily copied  and it says nothing about value provided. “The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about. “ – Seth Godin

A couple of ONLY examples.

“We provide the ONLY solution that permanently stops people from depositing biohazard contaminants through manhole covers”— MUG Solutions, Vancouver

“St John Ambulance is the ONLY provider of First Aid, Health & Safety Solutions Anytime, Anywhere”— St John Ambulance, Vancouver

Test ONLY with your customers to ensure it addresses something they care about, and you consistently demonstrate 24/7. The ONLY Statement works. It can be observed. It can be measured. People get it.

Start your ONLY journey today.

It’s the source of your competitive advantage claim.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 7.25.16 at 04:34 am by Roy Osing
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July 18, 2016

15 actions that create successful competitive differentiation

Successful competitive differentiation doesn’t happen at the 50,000’ level; separating yourself from your competition “In the clouds” is aspirational at best.

It makes you feel good to have the objective, but little happens to turn it into a reality.

Why is successful competitive differentiation difficult to achieve?

Attention and focus need to be applied to the detailed specific performance drivers of differentiation.

The aspiration is easy, but if you don’t bear down on the detailed elements that in harmony produce a believable differentiation claim, you will merely have a “wish and a prayer” that will never happen.

These action items will successfully differentiate you from your competition.

Create the strategic context to define what your competitive claim should “look like” and the organization capabilities that should be given priority.

Create your ONLY statement to answer the question “Why should I do business with you and not your competitors?”

Avoid perfection; trying to get your competitive claim “exactly right”. Pour your soul into execution; learn and refine it as you go.

Have a direct line of sight between all employees and your differentiation strategy to ensure each individual knows their role in execution.

Repel mass anything. The herd believes in mass marketing. Sustainable differentiation is the result of focusing on individuals and not mass markets.

Go for premium prices. Provide remarkable value to command higher prices than your competition. Low prices = low value = commodity = no differentiation.

Resist copying. Copying “the best” is a non-starter for differentiation. You may get operational improvements from copying but you will NEVER stand-out strategically.

Align internal “systems”. Internal infrastructure - policies, compensation, service strategy, reward programs, IT, web and social media - must all work together to deliver your differentiation claim. Inconsistency in delivery renders your claim not believable.

Cultivate leaders ask “How can I help?” rather than “Do this!” as the vehicle to clear roadblocks and enable execution. Successful differentiation = servant leadership. Period.

Shed the impulse to control everything. Empower people; trust customers (eliminate policies intended to control the dishonest few).

Surprise customers with what they DON’T expect. This shows you care about delighting them and is a bold move to move away from the commoners.

Think tops down; let growth targets drive the essence of your differentiation strategy. The more bold the growth goals, the more aggressive and creative your strategy.

Cast off the notion of customer service in favour of serving them. You service computers; you serve people. Subordinating your organization to the client leads treating your customers in an exemplary way which cannot be easily replicated by competitors.

Hire for goosebumps. Recruit people based on their proven ability and innate desire to serve others. Their stories are heartwarming and emotional and give you goosebumps. Goosebumps = a human organization = competitive advantage.

Renew your strategy annually. Successful differentiation today is quickly erased by the actions of an aggressive competitor.

If you are diligent in creating an organization capable of implementing this action plan, you will not only successfully differentiate yourself TODAY, you will also sustain in for the long term.

It’s not rocket science; just hard work.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 7.18.16 at 05:01 am by Roy Osing
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July 11, 2016

Old school teaching gets a failing grade; 9 subjects that should be taught business students

The gap between school teachings and what is REALLY needed for organizations to thrive and survive in the new markets that are unfolding is WIDE and is getting WIDER.

Approaching CHASM proportions in fact.

As an executive leader, I made it a priority to engage with business students and graduates on a regular basis. I needed to know where the talent was; who I should keep my eyes on for employment.

Based on my experience, my conclusion is that NEWBIES AREN’T READY.

Straight out of school they are ill-prepared to add the value required to enable our organizations to be remarkable, compelling, indispensable and unforgettable.

They are not being taught the right stuff.

They are getting traditional pedagogy jammed down their throats by professors who have ZERO experience running businesses “in the real world” of aggressive competition, unpredictability and biased employees.

These principles MUST be espoused by business schools if graduates are to be relevant to business in today’s markets.

Execution is the key to winning - a business plan without flawless execution is worthless. It’s one thing to define WHAT has to be done, but without a detailed implementation plan and accountability, nothing happens and strategic intent remains a dream.

Customer learning is a competitive advantage - we need more than periodic market research to keep pace with how customers are changing; we need more than periodic market research to keep pace with how customers are changing; we require a continuous process of “going deep” to monitor minute by minute what people desire. Organization’s today succeed by providing what makes people happy; what they want, covet and “lust for” in their lives. Satisfying what they “need” is no longer a recipe for sustainable competitive advantage.

Serve people don’t service them - you service computers; you SERVE people. Amazing and remarkable organizations put the customer ahead of themselves; they exist to SERVE others. They build operations system to make engagement easy; they create policies and procedures that enable transactions not control customer behaviour.

Perfect solutions don’t exist - the business world is too complex to be formularized. Flawed solutions that excite people beat those that may be theoretically pristine but don’t meet the practical realities of the specific organization and the market it serves. Imperfection rules and “be imperfect fast” is the guiding mantra. The more failures with a heathy dose of learning from them = more successes. Punish failure ONLY if you want compliance, policy-pushers and order takers.

The frontline is the boss - people who control the customer experience are the really important people, not the executives. Build your hierarchy to serve them.

Screw-ups create customer loyalty - a successful WOW! service recovery from an OOPS! results in a more loyal customer than if the screw-up never happened.
And when someone is screwed over, “I’m sorry” is THE most strategic phrase ever and is the heart of a mind-blowing service recovery.

Erect barriers to customer exit - Ignore the competition and creating barriers to competitive entry. You can’t control the competition; if they want to attack you they will. The right strategy is to prevent customers from LEAVING and you won’t have to worry about the hordes entering.

Lose a sale (but keep the customer) - the immediate transaction should not be the number one priority; building a long term relationship with a client should be the ultimate mission and focus of all sales activity. So if you find yourself unable to satisfy a short term need your client has, suck it up and help them find a solution elsewhere. Be the problem solver, preserve the relationship and earn the right to sell another day.

Storytelling ignites the passion - every organization needs a cadre of amazing storytellers who are able to make a vision or strategy come alive for people. It makes the organization’s purpose real to employees in a way that excites them to play an active role in the chosen future.

Build a business curricula around these subjects; old school teaching gets a failing grade.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 7.11.16 at 06:51 am by Roy Osing
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July 4, 2016

Best practices: let’s change the conversation

Let’s change the conversation in business.

Seriously, aren’t you getting tired of the conversation around best practices?

When you copy someone or something, you relegate yourself.

You are “sucking up” to an organization or individual defined (by someone presumed to be THE thought leader) to be the essence of what you should aspire to.

Which means you roll over, put your “paws in the air” and subsume yourself to someone else.


It’s time you stepped forward to separate yourself from the crowd.

You owe it to yourself and those around you to be different than everyone else.

The world is becoming a home for best practice addicts and as a result it’s boring and benign.

Few organizations stand out. Few are special. Being remarkable isn’t a strategy on the radar of most.

Don’t cave to “expert” pundits who are doing a dis-service to us all.

Ask the question “What can we do to stand-out from the crowd?” and be silent on “How can we emulate best in class?” to fit in with herd.

Ask not “How does this conform to best practices?” But “How does this make us stand out and be special?”.


Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 7.4.16 at 05:53 am by Roy Osing
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