I meet a lot of CEOs, Founders and Senior Executives in my line of work. With alarming regularity, I often hear them lament about loss of market share to their competitors or as they euphemistically call them “dynamic market forces.” Their stories often mirror the story-line below…
We were killing it! We heard about a potentially disruptive competitor entering the market. At the time, we couldn’t imagine our “enterprise” customers would ever use them. So, it was back to business as usual. Fast forward 5 years and our market share has shrunk dramatically. The ignored disruptor from 5 years ago and others like them are eating our lunch!
Upon closer examination and exploration the individual plot twists and turns reveal other parallels and common themes in their story-lines. Some of these are:
- Once upon a time we were considered the market disruptors, life was good. Complacency soon set in. Innovation took a backseat. Competitors were distant objects in the rear-view mirror. Sales teams were on automatic. Just “more-of-the-same” seems to be the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Clearly the rot had set in a lot earlier than we had thought…
- Reaching the top of the mountain had it perks. The view was breathtaking — even intoxicating. No one warned you that the altitude-induced attitude was an achilles heel. Vistas replaced vision. No one told you that success often comes with its own set of blinkers…
- Innovation was relegated to lab-rats in R&D housed in showy ivory towers or dingy basements. They produce little that is marketable or truly innovative. Separated by layers of processes, procedures, and policies from our customers, employees had transformed themselves into dispassionate, disinterested, detached drones. “Factory-Fresh” customer care simply stinks!
- Sales Teams were suddenly finding it harder to sell. Their excuses started to outnumber the sales being closed. We fired a few laggards — hoping to “inspire” them to get off their butts. Desperate, we hired a “Rock Star” salesperson with a Rolodex to match. The excuses continued to mount unabated. Sales forecasts becomes as predictable as the weather! Panic began to set in…
- How could we have missed the obvious warning signs? Surely, we couldn’t have been that busy or distracted! We collectively seemed to have missed or worse willfully disregarded the signposts to our own decline. If we survive this crisis, how do we ensure that we don’t miss the forest for the trees again? We thought we were laser-focused on what mattered…
It’s clear the problems run a lot deeper than the “sudden” appearance of competitors. Every business has competitors, even those that claim they have no competitors magically find “new” competitors nipping at their heels in relatively short order. Competitors are par for the course in any business — it’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools. What then is negatively impacting a lot of different businesses across-the-board recently?
There is an understated almost unrecognized ground shift in play across the globe. The convergence of different seemingly unrelated technologies is responsible for a phenomenon that experts have aptly described as Digital Disruption. The unprecedented scale of this disruption is what distinguishes this disruption from others in the past — the world is fast becoming an intelligent, digitally enabled mesh of People, Things and Services driven by the rapid convergence of several different technologies. According to Gartner, technology will be embedded in everything in the digital business of the future, and ordinary people will experience a digitally-enabled world where the lines between what is real and what is digital will be blurred. In an era where continuous, unrelenting disruption is pre-ordained, only innovative businesses will thrive, others will simply wither on the vine.
What then should businesses do to survive or thrive in this era of an unprecedented digital disruption? There are five things that I believe businesses need to focus on right now, to ensure that they are around tomorrow to take advantage of the opportunities that this era of transformation will present to them. In no order of preference they are:
- Embrace the change that is around you. Mindsets matter — more so than they have in the past. Figure out what you need in terms of attitude as much as aptitude to capitalize on the opportunities that will be presented to you. Ignite a corporate culture that not only supports and natures the co-travelers on your journey but enables them to effectively combine their strengths into cohesive high performant teams.
- Innovate or die may sound trite, but its never been truer than now. Companies that don’t innovate won’t survive this onslaught of broad-based disruption. Innovation cannot be limited to or restricted to your R&D lab, it needs to permeate and percolate throughout your entire enterprise. Everyone needs to be an innovator or an enabler of innovation.
- Bring Sales into the 21st century! Too many companies are stuck in the past when it comes to sales strategies and tactics. How people buy products and services is at the very heart of this disruption. The sales playbook that companies still use is so outdated that it needs to be thrown in the woodpile. This is a buyer-centric world — you need to cater to that reality and not to some imagined bygone era.
- Envision the future. Set lofty, ambitious, aspirational goals. Be on the lookout for both opportunities and threats. Look for meaning and sustenance in the unlikeliest of places. Seek the company and counsel of people from every walk of life. Revel in the diversity (and even the confusion) of what is now a global marketplace with its myriad layers of interdependence and interconnectivity.
- Execute to perfection. Too many companies drop the ball at the proverbial “last mile.” Exacting expectations along the entire value chain allow for very little to no leeway — fail fast and often but get it done! Get the Doers and Thinkers working together to ensure that your dreams get built/delivered. Customer centricity requires that you deliver on your promises to simply survive and exceed expectations to thrive.
These truly are the best of times and the worst of times! What is your new story-line going to be?
Partner, Head of Sales & Business Practice at Recalibrate Pvt. Ltd.