Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
Growing any organization is a complex process.
As my mother used to tell me when I faced a difficult task, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Sometimes, however, we make it harder than it should be. One way in which I see leaders handicap themselves all the time is by effectively conceding an important battle every single day.
The battle? That would be the fight between the best and the merely good. I see, hear and talk with leaders all the time for whom the best they have isn’t the best there is.
Don’t get me wrong – I fully understand that smaller organizations can’t always compete with their larger brethren when it comes to resource-intensive, expensive outlays, such as plant and equipment, advertising spend and R&D. But the truth is, many of the most important building blocks of sustainable business growth can be just as world-class in smaller organizations as they are in large ones – if not considerably better.
Here are the top three areas which, in your organization, you should be truly able to say “Our best is as good as the best there is”:
1. Your Employees.
It’s a canard to believe that only large organizations can hire the best talent.
I’ve been helping small and medium-sized organizations - for-profit and not-for-profit - hire world-class talent for over 30 years, and I’ve yet to see a determined, patient leader stymied in attracting the talent they want.
Don’t put up with merely good employees. Every time you launch a new initiative, or plan a new product or service offering, ask yourself: Is the person you’re putting in charge of it the best there is – or merely the best you have?
2. Your Product or service offering.
Speaking of products and services, take a look at your current offering. In your field, in your industry, in your geographic region, in the niche you serve, are they the best there is?
If not, why not? Are there genuine reasons why you’re not delivering the best product or service possible (cost barriers that you’ll only overcome through scale, for example), or is it simply that you’ve ‘settled’ over time for less?
Here’s an important coda: the two growth cornerstones above are intimately connected.
Delivering products and services that are the best in your industry requires that you hire the very best. And you’ll only be able to attract the very best by committing to deliver best-in-class products and services. The two go hand in hand.
3. Your Culture.
Here’s one area where you can actually beat your large competitors hands-down. Frankly, the culture in most large organizations flat-out sucks. Yours needn’t – indeed, it mustn’t.
There are all sorts of reasons why large organizations get culture so badly wrong, from laziness to ineptitude via complexity and entropy. But the reasons, for you, are irrelevant. What is (highly) relevant is that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and there is no reason why a smaller organization shouldn’t have a vibrant, world-class culture.
If you’re wondering where to start, this is as good a place as any.