Last week, Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) was being interviewed on CNBC and, at the end, Becky Quick (one of the anchors) ask what made him successful. He said it was not that he was a great artist. He said it was not that he was a great writer. In many dimensions, he said, he was ordinary.
What he said next caught my attention: He said his success was based on how he connected these otherwise ordinary qualities into becoming the only comic strip that saw things from an employee’s point of view.
Think about it: If he tried to become a great artist, he would have had to compete with the vast population of great artists. The same with trying to be a great writer. But, instead, he chose to organize these ordinary skills in a way that unseated more established strips from the front page of most Sunday Comics.
What can private business owners learn from Scott Adams? Stop trying to compete head-to-head with your largest or most formidable rival. Instead, figure out how to combine all the ordinary things that you do well into a system that can set you apart from the competition. In other words, play your game, not your rival’s game. Here are two live examples:
- An otherwise typical printing company organized its printing, fulfillment, shipping, logistics and marketing talent into a hard-to-beat system that delivers in-store promotional kits to multi-site retail and franchise operations in a way that increases store revenue.
- A firefighter equipment and building safety product company that sells its products through a one–of-kind direct fire fighter sales networked system (think Avon meets first responders) in a way that much larger companies can’t beat.
In each case, these companies are deploying a Big Strategy (they are out competing a large competitor—think David vs Goliath). They are earning margins above their industry average and yet, when you look at each of their activities individuality, none of them stand out as best-in-class.
So make 2014 the year you begin to think differently about how you compete in your most important markets.
Don’t know where to begin? Click Here to download a worksheet that will help you and your team begin the process of finding your Big Strategy.