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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Creating Competitive Advantage through Strategic Leadership

Businesses that are focused on developing sustainable long term market share growth during tough economic times often have a longer time-horizon and a broader set of goals than companies that have not stayed current and relevant to their market place. Typically these companies being current and relevant are dissatisfied with the status quo and not only have developed contingency plans for the short term to deal with economic crisis but they have not abandoned their long term strategic vision for the company; albeit, they may adjust it according to current relevancy.

To succeed in today’s economic environment, leadership must build a foundation that allows the creative energy released by employees to actually work. You must leverage employee dedication and sacrifice that stems from ownership of the Vision-Values and Core Beliefs that have been engrained into the culture of the organisation. The CEO or owner of this type of company generally conveys a well-articulated set of principles that guide the business and helps to instil the same values in employees. By declaring their goals publicly this type of leader inspires trust and respect which is the baseline for employee commitment to success during tough economic times and long term growth.

This broader vision of success requires new business tools, practices and relationships. Being receptive to new ideas and suggestions opens the door to an array of business opportunities. That’s what being current and relevant is all about. You cannot afford to wallow in a pool of pessimism and past practice without opening your mind to new ideas and new options.

Be Open Minded

The internet revolution brought on many changes to the market place and presented enormous opportunity. Before this revolution took place, undertaking large projects, entering new markets or working globally was the exclusive privilege of large corporations and conglomerates. In this century, innovative use of 'virtual' corporations, strategic alliances and other partnerships and ventures means smaller companies can now compete and generate business outside their traditional markets. Communication technology allows global orientation for even the smallest business and the greater efficiencies that can be offered by a team of small players, enable these firms to perform on the global stage.

Dealing with economic crisis requires the application of sustainable business principles that are current and relevant. You must maintain a forward momentum regardless of circumstance. Realise that all the problems and challenges you face on a day to day basis as a result of the faltering economy are the same issues and challenges faced by your competitors. Ask yourself this question, “Can you outperform the competition?”

Improvements in your sustainable business practices must come from new ways of thinking about meeting customer needs, and redesigning operations with a priority focus on servicing your customer.  Prepare yourself and your management team to be forward thinking and open to new ideas.

Focusing on Qualitative Market Share Growth

One of the biggest challenges in creating a sustainable future and gaining market share in a tough economy is the ability to refocus policy and practices across a variety of functions.  The focus on revenue growth was appropriate prior to the current economic environment when “fish were jumping in the boat.” Today, however, focus must be on market share and net profit as opposed to top line growth. This is an important principle that everyone on your team must understand. High-performing organisations integrate market share focus and performance management best practices more than other organisations. Conversely, low-performing organisations consistently underutilise these best practices and lose focus on market share.

Execute the Plan

The inability of organisations to effectively execute their contingency or strategic plans is one of the major factors limiting success; success measured by market share growth and profitability. Recent management research and literature has thoroughly documented the importance of execution in creating success during tough economic times. Organisations execute their strategies through the creation of contingency plans and strategic initiatives, comprising any number of initiatives, programmes and projects that become the vehicles for realising the corporate vision --- a vision that is current and relevant. 

Whether a company ultimately succeeds or fails during these economic times depends on the effectiveness of the actions taken to deal with current challenges. Before these actions can be taken however, companies must recognise these challenges for what they are to take appropriate actions.


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