Fighting The Urge To Be A Bit More Edgy.

‘Competitive edge’. Sounds great doesn’t it. ‘Consultant-speak’ really for finding something your business can actually implement that will put you ahead of your competitors.

The problem for most retailers is the term itself and therefore where you go looking for it.

‘Competitive edge’ sounds a lot grander and sexier than in reality it often is. The truth about retail is that the principles are around 3,000 years old (Lydia in Asia-minor circa 600B.C.) and very straight-forward. The issues, the trends and the drivers of any retail category are pretty much the same for all competitors in that category. The customers are the same – albeit open to segmentation.

But the truth is, no two organizations execute the same way. What is delivered to the customer is unique in many different ways, some subtle and some not so subtle.

The trick to finding real ‘competitive edge’ for your business lies in finding the truth in two areas.

Firstly context. Context is about collecting and processing information in a way that gives you insight. What you are trying to find out is the context in which your business operates (category, competitors, customers) now and into the likely future. The insight that comes from context thinking is opportunity. There are no two businesses that think the same about context so this area is shaped by how you see things.

The second area of truth is your business. When you are looking at your business – just like self-assessment – you are trying to find where your businesses strengths and weaknesses lie internally. While at first glance many of these may appear to be common with competitors, the way they come about will be different and that is what you are trying to get to. Weaknesses are examined for capability gaps and speed humps that are fixed, but it’s the strengths that you are really trying to determine.

Competitive edge is not about being edgy. It is about truth. If it’s not true, your business could end up looking about as uncomfortable as a plumber in Ted Baker suit. Believe me a plumber can attract as many good looking girls in his work gear as a wealthy stock broker in a Ted Baker suit, because it fits him and he acts with confidence in who and what he is. Your business is the same.

You can only really exploit opportunity when you play to the real strengths of your business. After all, it’s only a plan until it is implemented. Aspiration is great. But the ultimate aspiration should be success, not looking younger and trendier for the sake of looking younger and trendier. We’ve all seen the sad looking the 60-year stockbroker with the young clothes, hair plugs, face-lift and pocket bulging, jumbo-sized bottle of Viagra.

When you find your competitive edge you’ve found your groove and success flows.

It just might be that you are currently looking for it in the wrong place.