According to an article in The Guardian, one of the top five regrets of the dying is
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Jane McGonigal, a professional Game Designer, suggests that when we adopt an avatar (or character in a game) and we talk about ourselves in third person with a focus on our strengths, it’s an incredible brain hack. It greatly reduces anxiety and depression.
So, you think I should just call my competitors and say ‘Hi, I’m in competition with you, I’d love to know more about the services you offer’?
Recently a small business centre facilitator advised me to do some research on my competition. Unsure about how to do this, I was shocked at the suggestion that I should, “Just pick up the phone and be honest”.
Hmm… be honest. I wonder if they’ll hang up on me?
Research your competition : don’t ask, don’t know.
So I picked up the phone and dialled the number on the least threatening looking business card.
We got chatting. The longer we talked, the more I thought it was not just me who found the conversation valuable. I believe the specific targeted questions I asked below, helped build the confidence of my competitors as well as myself.
What specific products or services do you offer?
In addition to these tangible deliverables, what else do you believe your clients get from working with you?
Obviously my main goal was not to make my competitor feel better! So what did I gain from the exercise?
Each conversation I had helped me refine my own individual selling position and realise that my main product, the Soul Biz Plan Workbook is actually very unique.
Even more importantly one of those conversations has potentially resulted in an affiliate who agreed to send business my way! Who would have thought.
Everyone has a unique selling position.
This is especially true if you deal with your customer directly.
I am fast learning that more often than not,
People want to do business with you is because YOU are YOU.
Your personality, your strengths and your beliefs are what attracts customers and ultimately builds a loyal following.
That being the case, it is very rare that someone will be offering the exact same service, or product, as you.
When I realised that the business coaching services I offer are in fact slightly different to my competitors, I noticed that we could actually work together. When clients do not fit our own target market, we can refer them on, and vice versa.
Very often we are quick to compare ourselves to others. Usually to people who have achieved great success already. And then we wonder why we are not like them!? I’m certainly guilty of doing it.
So often, the reality is that those people are further along their business journey. I bet if you looked at some of their original work or website copy (if you can find it), you’d see that like you, everyone starts somewhere.
When you compare yourself to others you start to second guess yourself and lose sight of your own uniqueness.
So what did I learn from researching my competition?
Ask the questions, get to know your competitors better. But don’t compare, simply be inquisitive. Then celebrate your own unique selling position!
Not only would I have never discovered what I wanted to know, but I would have never found out what I didn’t realise I wanted to know. Like hanging up the phone and knowing that a competitor might actually send business my way!
I hope this has inspired you to do some research about your competition. Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear how you go!
I’m attending the annual (sold out) ProBlogger Training Event in October along with 299 other bloggers from around Australia. I can’t wait! It’s the first real professional development commitment I’ve made for my Zest e-Biz blog and coaching business.
This both excites me, and scares me… Still on maternity leave I constantly toss between the comfort of going back to work as an employee, and biting the bullet and really making a go of Zest e-Biz!
Already I’ve connected with some amazing people in the lead up to the event who are very inspiring and motivating.
One of the preparation tasks for the event involves thinking about the goals and mission statement for your blog. That’s easy I thought…
Zest e-Biz – coaching business excellence!
But then I thought more about what I really meant by this and I didn’t know how to describe it more explicitly.
So I had a think and came up with the following:
“I blog because I want a flexible work schedule where I do what I love and work when I experience flow, not being forced to work between the hours of 9-5. I aim to educate and support others who wish to do the same and generate a low maintenance income from this.”
However I thought about this some more and realised it’s probably the general mission statement of just about any blog. Why was Zest e-Biz different? How could I make it stand out?
I remembered back to Simon Sinek’s catch phrase, which I discuss more in a previous post:
People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.
The mission statement above is simply what I wanted to do, but didn’t explain the ‘why’.
So I enlisted the services of Nailah Blades from Polka Dot Coaching, courtesy of a prize I’d won through an activate28 photo challenge. Nailah skillfully helped me define a mission statement based on three things:
Action words/verbs that I identified most with
My core values
Who/what I want to help
And this is what we came up with…
Coaching mindfulness in business, to connect and encourage business leaders who wish to inspire a following.
Quite different to my first attempt! This one really resonated with me, so now I feel I’m on the right track. The more we talked, the more I remembered my passion for inspiring leadership and engaging a following. My words started to dance off my tongue as my speech sped up. I felt my face come alive with emotive expression as I thought of and described leaders who have inspired me, and conversely those who have left me frustrated and disenchanted.
I think defining your mission statement is an iterative process, but for now I’m loving the way the second one above captures the essence of Zest e-Biz.
Specifying my goals is going to have to be the subject of a future blog after the time and effort it’s taken just to come up with my mission statement!
I’d love to hear what your mission statement is for your blog or business venture in a comment below. Check out the bottom of the Zest e-Biz Resources & Links page for more examples of mission statements from companies I find inspiring!
In Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of Zappos.com) book, called “Delivering Happiness”, he talks about customer service being the number one priority for their online shoe sales company. But he also stressed that building a good company culture was even more important to ensure great customer service.
One initiative they did was to ask all employees to write about the company culture in less than 500words. They compiled everyone’s responses and created a book that was given to potential new employees as well as existing employees. They decided to print people’s comments UNEDITED (except for grammar) to gain a complete picture of the company’s culture – potentially detrimental to their success. In 2010, 5yrs on from when it was first circulated they still update and re-publish this book known as the “Company Culture Book” annually.
Reading this I thought to myself this is all very well for a dynamic entrepreneurial company that has grown from only a small number of people. There is no way that something like this would work in the company I work for.
Have you ever had the same thought?
A lot of websites, textbooks and companies focus on IMPROVING ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE using techniques such as assessing the current company culture, comparing it to a benchmark or ideal culture, then making changes and embedding a new culture. The cycle is a time consuming process and relies heavily on the people managing the process being in touch with their workforce and understanding what really MOTIVATES them… rather than prescribing a culture that employees must follow.
Instead of taking this big picture approach, I’ve focused on a few things I do day-to-day at work to help build our team culture.
5 Tips for Building Company Culture from Grassroots:
EMPATHISE. When someone snaps at you, or you don’t get the response you were after, put yourself in his or her shoes. Try to understand why they may have reacted that way. It’s highly likely it wasn’t because of what you just said or did. Based on this, you might find you get a better result approaching them in a different way.
COMMUNICATE. Keep people in the loop. Whether they’re directly affected of even if they’ve just shown interest. People feel included and valued when you give them regular feedback.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. From opening the door for others, keeping the milk out if you see the next person making a coffee to complimenting someone on the way they look if you notice a difference or positive change. Even the smallest things can make someone else’s day.
TAKE INTEREST. Actively listen to what others do and say. When you ask someone “how’s it going?” or “how was your weekend?” pay attention to their answers and get to know them for who they are, not what they do.
INITIATE BREAKS. Suggest going for a coffee or taking a break with someone and consciously make an effort to talk about things other than work. Use these opportunities to get to know your colleagues better at the same time as taking time out.
Don’t always expect your team leader or boss to develop your team culture because everyone can influence those around them!
Most importantly – HAVE FUN! Check out this trailer from The Pike Place Fish company in Seattle:
At work last week it struck me that there are two different kinds of workers today… those who aim to protect their jobs and those who know that working together will ultimately lead to success for everyone.
Two Types of Workers
The first type of people generally specializes in their job, but hold onto information and protect skills they have learnt by not sharing with others. They believe knowledge is power.
Then there are the people who are enablers. Confident in their abilities, they understand that knowledge transfer, process optimization and working together are key to everyone’s success – including their own, even it if means working themselves out of their current role if it becomes obsolete in its current form.
Business in the Twenty-First Century
Peter Sheahan states in his great book called “FL!P” that:
We are fast exiting the Knowledge Age and entering the Relationship Era.
In the years ahead, two things will count the most:
Your ability to unlearn the things that are losing relevance… and to learn the things that are gaining relevance; and
Whether people come to know and trust you as they struggle to bring their own learning forward. That is do you really care about and respect them?
In his book called “Screw Work, Let’s Play” John Williams reiterates a similar message when he summarises American author Daniel Pink by saying:
Back in the nineteenth century the Industrial Revolution gave us massive factories and efficient assembly lines. The factory worker needed physical strength and manual skills to thrive.
The twentieth century ushered in the Information Age with the knowledge worker who needed analytical and logical skills.
Today in the twenty-first century we find ourselves in the Conceptual Age. The skills we need now… are what you might call right brain functions such as design, empathy, and big picture capabilities.
Logical Information Age skills are still necessary but they will no longer be sufficient. Work that can be easily defined and reproduced is likely to be either automated or outsourced. To survive, you must develop skills that computers [or other businesses or countries] can’t do better, faster, or cheaper.
What type of worker are you? If you are a business owner, what are you doing to improve knowledge transfer and relationship building in order to help others?
Jim Collins, best selling author of Good to Great makes reference to Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox” to illustrate his point about simplifying what it is that:
You are deeply PASSIONATE about,
You can be BEST IN THE WORLD at, and
Drives your ECONOMIC ENGINE
The Hedgehog and the Fox
“The fox is a cunning creature, able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog’s den, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot, and crafty – the fox looks like a sure winner.
The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a dowdier creature, looking like a genetic mix up between a porcupine and a small armadillo. He waddles along, going about his simple day, searching for lunch and taking care of his home.
The fox waits in cunning silence at the juncture in the trail. The hedgehog, minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox.
“Aha, I’ve got you now!” thinks the fox. He leaps out, bounding across the ground, lightening fast.
The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and thinks, “Here we go again. Will he ever learn?”
Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes, pointing outward in all directions.
The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog defence and calls off the attack. Retreating back to the forest, the fox begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place, and despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins.”
Are YOU a Fox or a Hedgehog?
According to Berlin, people can be divided into two groups: foxes and hedgehogs.
Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are “scattered or diffused, moving on many levels”
Hedgehogs simplify a complex world into a single organising idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. Anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance.
The Hedgehog Concept
How to Explore your Hedgehog Concept
Jim Collins suggests taking three bits of paper and listing separately:
What you are TRULY PASSIONATE about – i.e. what gets you excited, motivated, or angry i.e. what really fires you up? What did you love doing as a child?
What are you BEST IN THE WORLD at – i.e. what are you genetically programmed to do? Note: this list won’t always contain the same things as those on your deeply passionate about list.
What drives your ECONOMIC ENGINE – i.e. how is that you measure value? It may not be financially, it could be the number people influenced, or the number of lives saved or improved.
Then he suggests you give the three bits of paper to someone independent and get them to identify the interception of your three circles. Finally Jim Collins highlights that know you are nearing the interception of these three circles when you can get up everyday and say to yourself:
“I feel that I was just born to be doing this”
“I get paid (by the economic denominator of your choice – see point #2 above) to do this? Am I dreaming?”
“I look forward to getting up and throwing myself into my daily work, and I really believe in what I’m doing”
What is your Hedgehog Concept?
Whether you are interested in personal development or development of your business, do this exercise with three bits of paper and see what you come up with. I’ve started my lists a couple of times, although usually I tend to leave the ideas floating around in my head… so this afternoon I plan to get everything down on paper, then ask a couple of people I trust to review them for me!
Remember, you are not aiming for the perfect intersection of the three circles in your first attempt. Instead, try the exercise to better understand each of your three circles (which can grow and change over time) so that you can work towards that intersection.
Image sourced from http://hedgehogheaven.wordpress.com/
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Hi, I’m Kylah!
Business Coach | Keynote Speaker | Writer | Intrepid Parent | Life Long Learner
I'm passionate about empowering business excellence, but understand the importance of mindfulness in business.
Let's connect and talk conscious business growth today!