Is Your Business Competing?

Where to Start if Your Business is Not Competing Well

Sometimes, the hard truth is that your business might not be competing as well as you want it to and it’s tough to (a) know why that might be and (b) to overcome the emotional barriers to actually do something about that.

Think about a successful small or medium-sized business that you know personally in some way.
I bet you that they’ve got one or other of these approaches to business:

  1. They’re focused, in a way that makes them different. Almost always in one of these ways:
    • they usually only service a fairly specific group of customers or clients (a place, a population segment or a business segment); or
    • they do something pretty unique and which is valued; or
    • they have built an amazingly credible and powerful brand; or
  2. They are the Ryanair of their world. Determinedly no-frills and budget-pricing; or
  3. The costs of running their business are much lower than other people’s in the same industry. They’re probably big enough to have developed economies of scale. They take those reduced costs and they either:
    • re-invest those costs in more advertising; or
    • re-invest those costs in making the product/service more valuable, probably through design or innovation.

If your business isn’t competing as well as you want, does it have one of these approaches? Be honest. The emotional price of dealing with an uncompetitive approach is high, but the cost of dealing with a failing business is higher.

Decision Making Hacks Part 2:

How to let fate lend a hand in decision-making to reveal which options are really important

Building on Part 1, this decision-making hack is good for those situations when:

  • intuitive people are struggling find a ‘logical’ justification for what their gut is telling them; and or
  • the options are fairly well-balanced with no outstandingly obvious choice.

I carry around the quirky metal die shown in the picture (which is from a battle-game). The process is really simple:

  1. Number your options
  2. If you have 6 or fewer options = one roll
  3. More than 6 options, number them 2-12 and roll twice
  4. Roll the die
  5. Watch people’s reactions as the number comes up.

Usually what happens is that people are then able to say stuff like: “Oh, I didn’t really want option 2“, so you can at least rule that out. Often they’ll reveal (or you can ask) which number they were hoping for. You’ll also find people asking to do “best of three rolls” etc, which is also revealing about which options are important to them.

Another thing I like about this hack is that even people who are  unaware consciously of what they want or who find it difficult to express it, can be very reluctant to let fate decide for them and are likely to over-rule what the die chooses in favour of the ‘right’ option.

I suspect there’s a cultural bias here, so if you’re working with multi-national teams or in countries where the culture is less deterministic, some people may actually be more happy to let fate decide, so watch out for that.

Decision Making Hacks for Teams: Part 1

How groups of people can get to properly informed, timely and committed decision-making without too much struggle

Four problems tend to get in the way when teams and groups come together for decision-making:

  • individuals are sometimes reluctant to say what they think, if that might conflict with other people’s views;
  • intuitive people struggle find a ‘logical’ justification for what their gut is telling them, and have no way to feed that information into the decision-making process;
  • the options can be fairly well-balanced with no outstandingly obvious choice;
  • when there are more than three or four factors that might influence the decision it’s tough to keep them all in mind and weigh them up at the same time.

I’ve spent over 20 years helping teams and groups make good, timely decisions and have a small kit-bag of tricks to help the decision-making process along.

Here’s my first hack, which is really good for letting people express a preference without too much risk of exposure and in a way that helps the process be a little more fun:

If you and your team have a decision to make, list out all your options and get people to vote for them. Give people a number of points that they can spread amongst the options as they see fit. So, for example, if you’ve got five options, give them something like 4 points that they can apply as they want.

You can see from the photo that, in this example, Options 2 and 3 are tied for first place, with 4 points each. Now, here’s the fun part – give everybody a Joker card and allow them to double their original vote for one of the options.

Playing their Joker gives people to the chance to show which option they are really committed to and makes it enough of a game to get over their reluctance to conflict with other people. This hack has got me through several difficult boardroom decision-making struggles, especially when there are power-plays and alliances operating behind the scenes.