Insights & Advice

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Why does my competition always seem to be one step ahead of me?

Advantages can happen in technology use, marketing prowess, strategic planning, financial strength and product differentiation. These are all important, but the most untapped competitive advantage is organizational health, aka teamwork. Unlike good teamwork, all of the others are easy to access. You can hire a co-CEO to design strategic planning. The technologies of those disrupting your industry are mostly available to you. For many people right now, access to capital is plentiful. Marketing can be outsourced.

What many businesses need is improved teamwork. Many owners hate the concept of improving their team — it seems touchy-feely. Teamwork is less about Kumbaya and more about clarifying what each department is doing and how they are connected.

Silos within an organization are removed when the entire team is clear on why the company exists, what the firm’s goals and priorities are, which steps must be taken to advance the firm toward those goals, and who has accountability and decision-making authority. Bringing your team together on a vision and a plan should set you apart as a quality leader and give you a competitive advantage.

Teamwork is just as tangible and practical as anything else in your business. A quick web search can find research from the likes of Stanford, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Harvard Business Review and Microsoft supporting that claim. Companies that have collaborative workforces are far more likely to be high performing.

According to Salesforce, 86 percent of employees and executives blame lack of collaboration for workplace failures. And McKinsey & Company finds that 97 percent of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.

Without teamwork your departments — such as financial or operations — will fail to be healthy; they need to communicate with each other on margins and costs, for example. And sales can’t work in an environment where marketing doesn’t understand what moves a prospect along in the selling process. Even if those and other departments are at least satisfactory on their own, they are vulnerable to disruption from the toxicity and confusion of bad organizational health.

Nonetheless, managers are hesitant to take on the task of building teams because they either don’t like confrontation, or worse, they alienate people because they approach the communication aspect poorly.

It’s hard for leaders to confront the dysfunction within their firm with honesty, persistence and effectiveness. However, if your team isn’t optimized, your business will never realize the potential that continuously eludes you, but that your competition seems to find.

As a result, some business owners bring in professionals who are experienced in addressing team issues.

By eliminating the dysfunction of your team, whether caused by inside politics or ambiguity over roles, you empower your people to do their best work, solve problems for both the firm and the firm’s clients, and gain market share. Firms with the best teams are better equipped to bounce back from setbacks, attract the best people and create opportunities that they couldn’t have otherwise.

Ultimately, creating this environment of success puts you on track to beat your competition.

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This article originally appeared in The Berkshire Eagle on September 12, 2019.

Allen Harris, the author of “Build It, Sell It, Profit — Taking Care of Business Today to Get Top Dollar When You Retire,” is a Certified Business Valuation Specialist, Certified Value Growth Advisor, and Certified Exit Planning Advisor for business owners. He is the owner Berkshire Money Management (BMM) in Dalton. Harris’ forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Reach Harris at email hidden; JavaScript is required.