Three ways to find your competitive advantage: Defining your difference through culture

Chris Heile

Chief Strategy Officer

Friday, October 28, 2016

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These days, it seems like your competitive advantage is getting smaller and smaller every day. You have to compete harder for every win, cutting margins just to stay competitive.

You know that you have a better product or a better service that makes working with you worth the price? Here are three ways:

Look Inside

The choices that you and your employees makes each day, the practices that you put in place to drive your team to achieve excellence, reflect a company’s beliefs, values and aspirations. These are the foundation of culture, and therefore the foundation of your point of difference. Before you can truly find your competitive advantage, you need to look inside your organization to find who you are.

You see this in the way Zappos communicates with its customers and treats its employees. The brand has a clear tone of voice that helps define and demonstrate who it is. The brand realized that building an amazing culture through embracing employees’ individual spirit would soon lead to those employees delivering amazing service.

You also see this in sports teams, with no better example as the New England Patriots. It’s more than just a talented QB and coach that has made the team successful for so long. It’s the organization’s focus, culture and systems that led to the team’s overall sustained excellence.

Own your culture

Only you have your culture. Only you have your unique mix of people, processes and practices. Only you can build or service or provide in the unique way that you do it. When looking at your culture, you should be looking to find the strengths of your organization – learn what drives your people and makes the way you deliver your product or service unique to you. Once you find those strengths, capture and share them internally.

Bringing the best parts of your culture to the forefront helps define a competitive advantage that can’t be copied, and it can’t be changed. It truly is the fingerprint your organization leaves on everything and everyone it touches.

Find your how

This is not your values or your mission, but the choices you make in how you work, the people you hire, the passions you have and the processes you use. In the case of Zappos, the company calls itself “fun and weird” and is dedicated to “delivering wow through service.” This means call center employees can decorate their work areas any way they want. But, more importantly to the brand, call center employees are empowered to stay on the phone with the customer as long as needed – with one call lasting six hours. For Zappos, creating a personal, meaningful connection with each customer is more crucial than getting the call “handled” in the shortest amount of time.

How you choose to do things is unique to you, and it’s driven by your culture.

Getting help

Going through this process takes courage, but it also takes the help of a fresh set of eyes to facilitate the deep discovery needed to look inside your organization to see what is already there. Doing this helps you find the good and recognize any obstacles before you can articulate what is great about your people, your operation and the unique culture you have built. It is truly impossible to see these things for yourself.

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