How are you addressing business differentiation? Can we really differentiate our business from the one down the street? This is a question that businesses near and far are grappling with more so today than ever.

Differentiation…meaningful differentiation in highly saturated industries seems like a gigantic mountain to climb. Many industries face a market with countless of options of businesses to choose from that all offer quality products and services. Businesses faced with this look at differentiation almost impossible.

So, we continually find ourselves asking these types of questions:

  • Can it be done?
  • Can we really differentiate our business in a way that helps us attract and retain talent in a highly competitive talent market?
  • Will customers choose us and stick with us for their current and future needs?
  • Can we attract the right partners that help us be our best and maintain that coveted “desired” space in the marketplace?

The answer is, YES!  However, it is not easy…it takes a lot of dedication and a continuous approach to fine tuning, listening, learning and adjusting along the way.

The Key to Business Differentiation

Differentiating your business is a topic that has been covered in academia and books for years.  One article that was written last year in Forbes titled 5 Strategies to Differentiate your Business and own your industry suggests 5 totally legitimate and viable considerations:

  1. Optimize the User Experience
  2. Focus on a Niche
  3. Challenge the Status Quo
  4. Become and Expert
  5. Give your Marketing a Creative Spark

No doubt these are great considerations and things you can’t afford to not pay attention to. But, let’s be honest, your competitors are thinking about the same things and it just isn’t enough!  They are offering similar experiences, products and services and trying to market in unique, expert positioning ways that challenge the status quo they’d love to suggest your firm is offering.

So, what do you do?  What’s missing you may ask?  The answer is…your people and culture that is uniquely yours.  The one thing your competitors don’t have is YOUR people!

Zig Ziglar is known for a quote that I just absolutely love and feels fitting here.  It goes something like this, “You don’t build business.  You build people and your people build your business!”

Ziglar was on to something here, and we at The Vantage Group can say we see this coming to life every day in our own business and the clients we serve across the country.  No matter the industry, the one true difference you will always have is YOUR people and the culture that is within your business.  And like Ziglar said, your people are the ones that build your business!

So, what does this mean for the differentiation of your business?

It means that investing in your people and the culture that exists within your business is arguably more important than anything else you could focus on for growth, scale, sustainability, innovation and even business differentiation.

I get it…you’re likely thinking, “That sounds fluffy!”  For those that haven’t historically thought through a people-centric way of doing business would likely say you’re right. However, the truth is that people impact every process (big and small) and service/goods delivery (on the front end, the back end and everything in between) of your business…and therefore, your people are at the absolute core of your business reputation in the market and therefore, the key to business differentiation.

So, what should you do?

I’d like to suggest a few things that may take some time to develop, but will deliver exponential returns if you stay focused, deploy a continuous approach to fine tuning, listening, learning, and adjusting along the way:

    • Define your organization’s Purpose and align your people and strategy to that Purpose. It’s about knowing and living the “why” of your organization and being able to articulate a clear and compelling future. Can each person within your organization connect themselves with the bigger picture of what you do? Do they believe in it? It takes each one of your people to make your business work. Is it clear for you?  Is it clear for your leadership teams?  Are you making decisions that align with delivering your business into that purpose each day?  Are you willing to make hiring decisions based on their alignment and commitment to your organizational purpose?  If not, you will continue to struggle with dead weight that impacts your business reputation inside and outside of your walls.
    • Empower your People with the right level of challenge and accountability to deliver on your Purpose. The level of health and productivity we have with our colleagues and connections is important. We all need encouragement and accountability. Unfortunately, the latter is all too often missing. If we have aligned our people and worked to be sure our Purpose is clear, we can and should call ourselves to greatness and empower our people to deliver! But it’s not just about inviting them into that space, it’s about holding each other accountable to delivering on that every day in all that we do.  When our people feel empowered and supported to do their best work, they own their results in ways that can ensure they flourish and we can attract and retain top talent.
    • Define and maintain healthy rhythms within your business to set the right Pace for your people to work. Discerning how fast (or slow) your organization needs to move to sustain long-term success, capitalize on opportunities, and preserve capital is imperative to not burning out your people and providing that consistent and reliable experience your customers are asking for! We need to ensure we are regularly taking the time to reflect on how things are going, release what no longer serves us, recalibrate as needed and deliver results that are sustainable and scalable over time. When your pace is off, your people, customers and service partners feel it…and that is not the type of differentiation you are looking for.
    • Foster ideas and innovation to allow your people to Perceive new and differentiating possibilities. The environment you create should reflect a growth mindset, staying open to creative solutions and new ideas. Creating a safe space for all of your people to share their ideas and insights unlocks unlimited potential. Recognizing that innovation and differentiation can come from anyone…anywhere within your organization, we need to hear from our people, at all levels and spaces within our organization.  When we do, our potential to step ahead and at times, leap ahead of our competition, becomes possible.

When you do these things well, not only do you find yourself with a profitable organization, but you will also see that your people are building your business stronger and more effectively each and every day.  It may seem overly simplified, yet it’s not.  It’s hard work to do these things and do them well.  Your purpose can’t be meaningless words and your people need to believe it!  Your organization’s purpose needs to be living and breathing in all that you do because it impacts everything you do…how you treat your people, how you set your pace and how you foster ideas and innovation. If it was easy, every business out there would be killing it!

Here are a few final thoughts to consider:

If your employees understand the value they bring to your company (the bigger picture – the organization’s “why” and connect their own “why” to it), they will be more engaged!

If your employees are more engaged, they are more productive and commit to bringing the best, most effective and innovative level of service to your customers, both internal (their colleagues) and external (your end user) that creates a lasting and positive experience. 

A company full of productive employees will attract and retain better talent, customers, and service partners because the experience they receive is consistent and reliable and positive each and every time! 

Your people are at the absolute core of your business differentiation in the market. If you want your business to stand out in a crowded market, you need to remember the words from Ziglar…”your people build your business.”

How clear is your purpose?  Are your people, strategies, and the decisions you make aligned with your purpose?

Are you empowering your people through invitation and challenge?

Have you set the right pace to deliver results by identifying predictable rhythms of reflection, release and recalibration?

Are you fostering a safe environment that allows ideas and innovation to come from anywhere within your organization?

If you are struggling to answer the above questions, we can help.  Our TPL (The Prioritized Leader) program is designed to help you work through the 5 P’s of Purpose, People, Pace, Perception and Profit. The truth is, your leadership team(s) set the tone for everything that impacts your people within your business.  TPL creates the needed common language, focused priorities and aligned strategies that deliver a differentiated and profitable business.  Let’s talk!