Building a successful company takes an extraordinary effort. No one knows this better than the executive team. As an executive, you’re early to rise, last to leave, and rarely have time for anything outside of your immediate business. Even the thought of strategic planning and working with professionals outside of your core business can seem daunting with the daily issues you face. However, the top companies find a way to know more than their competitors. They outwork them. They outthink them. They do this through consistent effort and focusing that effort in the right areas. Through our research and observations, we have found five key points that separate a good company from a great company. Here they are:
Read the rags – Hard data and economic insight build the base of this competitive advantage. Despite the current tech obsession, newspapers are still a great source of information (didn’t Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com just buy one?) From industry-specific news to market updates, the daily news is still relevant to know where your company falls within the broader context of the world’s economy. Trade magazines like Aviation Week & Space Technology and Construtech – Residential, provide specific industry insight that you won’t find anywhere else. Online databases like Preqin, Factset, and others can provide you with immense amounts of data to get deeper insight into where your company should be focusing its energy and resources. From the latest mergers and acquisitions to the stock market’s sentiment and investment approach in your industry, the hard data and industry relevant editorials should serve as your company’s compass for information and economic trends.
Go to the shows – Industry trade shows or events are a must for company executives. And it’s not just about dinners and learning about the products in your space, it’s about meeting the people there that don’t directly do what you do. From data analysis companies to employee management systems, the tradeshows attract the brightest and most capable services offered in your field. Strategic buyers, suppliers, and potential new customer segments routinely attend these events to become more educated about your industry, provide insight into what they have learned, and ultimately gain exposure to companies like yours to do more business.
Test yourself – The majority of private companies believe that they are “the best” or “industry leader” in a given market. They often outline how they “provide the best-service at the lowest cost” because of their product lines, management structure, or other industry terms that can excite potential customers and satisfy existing customers. However, the majority of private companies have no idea how their internal operations or processes compare against competitors. For example, one aerospace and defense company recently detailed how they believed they were operating efficiently through streamlined product design and manufacturing process. That is until they were approached by a strategic in their space and went through a six month evaluation period. This evaluation should have taken less than two months, but due to inaccurate reporting metrics, fuzzy operational procedures, and a lack of transparency around the business’ true internal capabilities, the strategic decided to back away. This was the first time the company realized how far behind they were behind the competition.
Consult new sources of intelligence – You know your industry better than anyone. Well almost anyone. As executives you are focused on knowing your industry, your competitors, and the products and processes that your customers value. Just like you exist to serve your customer, there are thousands of firms outside of your immediate contact that are specifically designed to serve you. They have knowledge and insight into the global economy and other trends in your industry that can significantly affect your business and the long-term success you can achieve. Most companies have a trusted counsel of lawyers, accountants, and investment bankers that they regularly speak to keep updated of where their company currently fits in the larger economy. This ensures that you’re keeping your company competitive and your executive team armed with the most crucial advice for success.
Your task is not easy. The top executives know that all of these are very important. The challenge is to focus and make time for these issues, in light of all of your other commitments inside and outside of your business. As the top executive, your job is to continue steering your company in the right direction and make decisions that will give you a competitive edge. By constantly doing these four things, executive teams gain that advantage over those that don’t.