Large IT companies spend millions on market research to see how they stack up against their competitors, and use this information to figure out how to differ from them and be better.
Automotive manufacturers and importers watch every move competitors make; being first-to-market with a new fashion trend can mean the difference between a clothing brand outselling its competitors or disappearing.
Even cities position themselves against other cities to attract tourists and businesses. Why should competitive strategy (a vital part of marketing strategy) only be relevant to very large organisations? Why not your business?
Being competitive is a core requirement for all businesses irrespective of size. Not-for-profit organisations like charities, schools and religious organisations compete for funds, members and media attention.
Very small businesses and start-ups must wrench business away from competitors or alternatives just to survive. Without a compelling message about the advantages they offer over others, many of these organisations will fail as consumers take the easy route of buying the most popular, the most accessible, or the most familiar.
More than 30 years ago, Michael Porter defined competitive strategy as: “The plan for how a firm will compete, formulated after evaluating how its strengths and weaknesses compare to those of its competitors.”
This plan should be focused on getting a sustainable advantage over competitors so it’s much more than simply reducing price or having a special offer.
Implementing competitive strategy means taking actions to improve the firm’s market position by gaining a competitive advantage over the organisation’s rivals. The competitive advantage can either be delivering better customer value, or operating more efficiently than competitors, or both.
A lot of start-ups are born because the entrepreneur has an idea for an innovative new product or service that isn’t available from competitors. This doesn’t mean there’s no competition or need for competitive strategy. Customers who buy the new product or service take money from other expenditure, and if the idea is successful it will attract many imitators.
Higher efficiency lowers cost
Better value for customers can mean more offering for less money, higher functionality, a more convenient way of buying, faster delivery, better warranties or a host of other possibilities like making the buying experience more attractive or fun.
The Hooters chain of restaurants uses attractive and outgoing waitresses in hot pants; tyre fitment centres offer filter coffee and sport on a big screen; FNB boasts credit card delivery to your door.
More efficient operations can mean having lower costs of operations, higher quality for the same cost, less administrative overhead from making fewer mistakes, and faster turnaround time.
This last one is equally important for pizza delivery and those who make tooling for car manufacturers, which indicates just how across-the-board the requirement to be competitive is.
Putting together a competitive strategy in four steps
- Identify who your competitors are
- Find out about the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ companies and products
- Plan how to compete against them and then implement that
- Monitor their reaction to your actions.
This may sound complicated, difficult to do, and hugely time consuming. You may think you only need to improve your offering, but that’s not good enough; you should be doing that continuously anyway.
Competitive strategy can be intense and time consuming but can easily give you opportunities to grow in size and profit far beyond your current forecasts.
Microsoft, Facebook, Nandos and Discovery all started as small operations and grew to dominance in their sectors because they had great competitive strategies. Will your business be a giant of the future?
Who are your competitors?
Many business plans I see list companies selling roughly the same product with or without their strengths and weaknesses, but make no attempt to show how you will compete with them.
This is meaningless. To identify your competitors I suggest you acquaint yourself with Porter’s Five Forces: The bargaining power of buyers and suppliers, the threats of substitutes and new entrants as well as traditional competitors. Then list the four or five most worrying competitors; those that could hurt your business if they chose to.
Many entrepreneurs claim their business is so unique that there really are no competitors. If this is you, ask yourself: “Why am I not yet a billionaire?” It’s likely that your competitive threat comes from customers using their available funds to buy something totally different but equally satisfying or better known to them. There are always competitors or imitators.
Once you have a prioritised list from any of the Five Forces, go and research the companies. There is an amazing amount of information on the Internet, in their publications and in news articles.
Talk to experts in your industry, have someone call them to see how they are treated, get profiles of the management team, identify their suppliers and major customers. Form an opinion about their size and financial and marketing strengths, identify their sales channels.
Investigate how they handled competitive situations in the past. Some companies are relentless litigators, others bully new entrants with price wars or threaten customers and suppliers to stop them from trading with you.
Now list their major strengths compared to your business, their style of operating and competing and look for areas of weakness. However powerful they are they will have weaknesses, search for them, think creatively. Their own size and power may be working against them, slowing responses, being arrogant or management being unaware of how staff treat customers.
Working out how you can compete with the identified companies may seem like a daunting task, especially if they are larger and ruthless. On the other hand not working out how you can compete is likely to lead to extremely unpleasant tasks like winding up your business, so take the plunge.
You have two broad opportunities to compete – you can have lower costs or you can be distinctively different in the eyes of the market.
Focus on how you can compete in areas where the competitors are weak. If they are large bullies get the community on your side, if they are bureaucratic be responsive, if they have quality failures make sure you have none, if they are arrogant be especially receptive to customers and their issues.
To be distinctively different means much more than just doing things differently. The difference must be desirable for customers. They must get more value when buying from you; lower prices or higher performance.
Higher performance is not only of the product or service, it may mean higher quality, faster or easier availability or better financial terms. You need to think creatively; look at successful marketers. Motor dealers have service plans, cell phone companies bundle free and paid calls into packages, countries offer tax free ‘holidays’ to encourage industrialists to set up new factories.
Barack Obama used social media to effectively deliver his ‘yes we can’ message to the electorate. Nandos and Kulula made it fun to deal with them. Small businesses can borrow and use these and many other ideas.
While you are planning, you may find that competitive strategies which look as if they would work against one competitor may not be the same for other competitors. Devise the best compromise of actions, focusing on the most threatening competitors.
If your competitive strategies are implemented it is likely you will take business from your competitors. They will not sit back and let you eat their lunch, they are going to react, possibly intensely or viciously. Be prepared.
Keep monitoring their style, strengths and weaknesses at regular intervals. Do the same to your own organisation; you do not want to fall into the same traps they did. This takes time, money and effort, but it is one of the easiest ways to grow your business significantly, and become stronger than competitors.
You will need to adjust your strategies as this happens, but you may now be able to afford formal competitive market research. Have fixed times set aside for competitive strategy focus and monitoring how your strategies are working. It’s well worth the effort.
If you have read to this point you presumably are thinking seriously about competitive strategy. A percentage of you will be thinking that this is something you and your team really should do, but with the workloads of managers of entrepreneurial small and medium businesses, doing it may be a challenge.
You may be thinking, “How do we find time to do all this work? How do we find the money?” It really is a question of priorities. Would it be worth your while to not respond to a tender, to postpone the product development, to again delay the company profile that should have been done months ago?
Only you can answer these questions, but while doing so remember that good competitive strategy may mean you are creating a much better and bigger business over time, but gaining significant short-term advantages. Competitive strategy gets my vote as the priority.
Related: What Exactly is Strategic Planning?
A World Of Opportunity Awaits With Peli Peli
Business ownership has always been the entrepreneur’s way of shaping their future. If you’ve always wanted to experience life in the US, this is your chance.
Global media has been reporting that the chances of non-American citizens being granted access to move to the US are getting slimmer with the new administration. However, there is still one channel of access that allows people the opportunity to relocate that hasn’t been amended by the presidency.
The EB-5 Visa programme was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a programme initially enacted as a pilot in 1992, and regularly re-authorised since then, investors may also qualify for EB-5 classification by investing through regional centres designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
The question most commonly asked by foreign investors is where to start selecting a relatively low-risk company to invest their money into. One such entity that has been granted designation under the EB-5 programme is the restaurant group Peli Peli.
Peli Peli is a South African cuisine restaurant that has gained incredible traction in the competitive American restaurant industry. They currently have six successful branches opened in the Texas area. Peli Peli Vintage park, which opened in 2009, generated revenue of $5,3 million in 2016.
Peli Peli Galleria opened in 2015, and had $5,2 million revenue in 2016. Peli Peli Kitchen, their first fast casual concept, opened in October 2016 and reported revenue of $2 million in 2017. Peli Deli, a downtown fast food casual lunch concept and Peli Peli Cinco Ranch, which opened in February and July 2017, respectively, are both showing incredible growth to match their predecessors.
At least two more locations will be opening in 2018, and as all new Peli Peli locations have historically generated positive cash flow within the first year, the company expects to increase its revenue exponentially.
The power team behind the brand
The restaurant chain has garnered popularity, and won a multitude of awards, including Best Service & Best Atmosphere — Readers’ Choice Award (Houston Press) and 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winner for the Top 100 American Fare Restaurants in the United States (OpenTable). Peli Peli is also rated in the top ten in Houston, Texas (which boasts over 12 000 restaurants) on both Tripadvisor and Yelp.
The Peli Peli trio who own the business are Chef Paul Friedman, Thomas Nguyen and Aiki Tran. These three dynamic businessmen have their own share of accolades to speak of. Chef Paul, who is a born and bred Joburger, has been a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen for multiple episodes on the Food Network. He won the People’s Choice Award and was placed third as a judge in the Gumbo Smackdown 2014. He received the 2013 Chef of Chef Awards in the 9th Annual Houston Wine and Food week, as well as being the 2013 Cadillac Culinary Master. He was also one of 60 Houston Chefs to be listed in the book Best Chefs America.
Thomas Nguyen, who is Chief of Marketing for Peli Peli, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and was a former litigation attorney. He was the Houston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 award recipient in 2015 and an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Gulf Coast finalist in 2016 and 2017. He was Entrepreneur of the Year — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce and is also a freelance writer for the Houston Press.
Peli Peli’s CEO, Aiki Tran, has over 12 years of experience in restaurant technology and won the 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year award — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce. He was responsible for streamlining the technology infrastructure for franchises such as Popeyes and Wings, Pizza N Things. He also became the number one reseller of Aldelo and Dineware POS systems in Texas, with installations in over 200 restaurants.
Joining their ranks is South African Ryan Stewart. Having owned 16 restaurants throughout the country, he is also the CEO and co-founder of the Mozambik restaurant chain. Ryan has 17 years’ experience in the industry and is being brought on board by Peli Peli to assist in their revenue and store location growth.
Your path to the US
With the combined talent, brainpower and experience of these four businessmen, it’s no wonder Peli Peli is achieving success. The investment required to qualify for an EB-5 Visa through Peli Peli is an amount of $500 000 and is structured as an equity investment at risk. It entitles the foreign investor to permanent residency, and within two years of living in the United States, a green card for the investor and his/her dependents.
For more information on how
You can be a part of the EB-5 Visa programme through Peli Peli.
4 Ways To Find Your Own Business Style
The only way to develop a business style is step-by-step over time.
Finding a style in finance will define how you react to changes and how you approach new situations. It’s as important in business as it is in stock trading. Developing a business style and developing a stock trading system are extremely similar pursuits.
But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to do. It will take time and you do have to be willing to work at it.
Here are my four ways of finding your own business style.
1. Get rid of your expectations
You can’t force anything to work. It’s necessary for you to be flexible when it comes to finding a business style. Begin by letting go of any expectations you have before trying a new style.
Prior to attempting a new style, you have to be willing to go into it with no expectations. You never know what you’re going to find.
2. Track your movements
Some things are going to work and some things aren’t going to work. I always tell my students in the Tim Sykes Millionaire Challenge that they should keep records of the things they’re doing. Keep these records as detailed as possible because attempting trial and error can quickly lead you in circles.
Don’t fall into the trap (as I did in the beginning) of trying the same thing multiple times because you never tracked the results.
I keep large spreadsheets with notes of the various styles and systems I’ve tried in business. Business mistakes can be costly, so you need to do everything you can to avoid making them.
3. Look at what others are doing
I refuse to believe that someone is doing something truly unique. The moment someone makes a breakthrough in business there are a hundred people replicating the same things. And that can be a powerful tool. Consider what others are doing and see whether you can learn something.
It’s why I also advocate finding a mentor to help you out. They’ll be able to help you out and you’ll benefit from their enhanced experiences in business.
Again, track what you’re taking from other people so you know whether something is working.
4. Refine what you do
Rarely will anything in business work the first time. However, your first attempts will give you a good benchmark as to what you need to do next.
You should never be satisfied with what you have, even if it’s working. Always work on improving your business style. I believe this is the most important thing because it also teaches you how to adapt to changing conditions over time.
Last Word – Constantly Growing
There’s no step-by-step guide for how to develop a business style. The only way to do it is to obey the fundamentals and then develop everything over time.
Even though the process is long, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot of lessons and gain from a huge number of experiences over time.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching
Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.
Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.
Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.
The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.
Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:
- Where are we going?
- Where are you going?
- What are you doing well?
- Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
- How can I help you?
- So you have suggestions for me?
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