To answer your question, sustaining a competitive advantage is key to the success and longevity of any business of any size.
Research and real world examples show businesses that do not continuously “sustain a competitive advantage” do not survive in the long term (assuming they had an advantage to begin with). An example is Blockbusters and Netflix. Netflix adapted their competitive advantage to streaming (an emerging technology at the time) while Blockbuster did not adapt so no longer exists.
This is even more relevant today in the global digital world we live in because there are new technologies released every 12 to 18 months providing you (and your unknown competitors) with new ways to excite and entice customers over and over again. If your competitors have more exiting products/services/pricing your customers will move over to them leaving your business with lower revenue.
Be aware there are different types of competitive advantage. Technology in the example above is the dynamic kind, one of several key areas for any business of any size to find a continuous competitive advantage.
As Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM says "You've got to keep reinventing. You'll have new competitors. You'll have new customers all around you."
If you like, you can learn more about business and technology management here.
“How do you settle on a start-up strategy when what you need to know in your start-up changes every day?”
Today we answered your question:
“How do you settle on a start-up strategy when what you need to know in your start-up changes every day?”
I understand your dilemma completely and you are not alone. Since 2015 I have worked with start-ups and established businesses of all sizes to scientifically identify and develop capabilities and big picture strategies that include both consistency and adaptability. However, without a solid business foundation or blueprint from which to launch, an effective strategy can appear elusive.
Each business day is...
The quick answer is the business model(s) informs the business strategy.
A business model is a scientific concept model turning the key elements in any business into a graphic model. Key elements present in any business are the target market, how you reach your target market, what value you are providing them unique to what’s on the market already (what problem you are solving), how the business will bring in revenue, the key activities of the business required to deliver the value, and the expenses. Combined, these elements drive strategic decision-making in the business. The decisions are turned into planned actions with expected outcomes and deadlines as a strategy. Business level strategies would be more focused on the delivery of the key elements of unique value, increasing reach and expansion of target segments.
If you like, you can learn more about business and technology management here.
Today we answered your question:
“What is a book recommended about the foundation of a company which is aimed to grow as a large corporate with small capital and without making loans, by reference to (a) real successful preferably recently founded corporate(s) experience?”
A very informative book, read as part of a recent postgraduate OU university course, about starting, managing, and growing a business with real examples is:
Exploring Entrepreneurship practices and perspectives by Richard Blundel and Nigel Lockett.
If you like, you can learn more about business and technology management here from T.O.O.D
Today I answered your question: “How do you maintain a competitive advantage?”
Creating and maintaining a strong competitive advantage is a highly specialised skill. In contemporary businesses it is often the job of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). So, from a CTO’s perspective, it is a company’s ability to adapt that is key to maintaining a dynamic competitive advantage. Here are two reasons why.
The current business environment changes every 18 months as a result of technological advancements. Technology advancements, for example, can create new ways to deliver services (e.g. Netflix streaming films rather than dvd’s), creates new types of products (VoIP phones rather than analogue lines), and new ways to deliver value to customers (convenient e-commerce rather than in store shopping). Another point to consider is that as competitors become aware of your competitive advantage, they copy it while overcoming what you are not able to offer your customers, so creating a competitive advantage is an ongoing activity.
So, a key capability each organisation should have to maintain a competitive advantage is the ability to adapt to the changing business environment and to customers changing buying habits and needs. However, not all aspects of a business can be adapted. For example, changing the culture of a well-established global organisation is tricky, time consuming (longer than 18 months) and seldom successful (IBM is an example of a successful cultural change).
Regular research can provide an intimate awareness of the business environment that provides insights into change. Insights come from current, authoritative research of competitors, market trends, legislative changes, and emerging technology trends on a local and global scale. Local and global is necessary because the internet has destroyed geographical boundaries. As changes occur the company can identify new opportunities for competitive advantage and adapt accordingly.
Another way an organisation can be adaptable is to gain insights from customers by effectively and efficiently collecting, analyzing and skilfully using relevant knowledge from within the organisation. A simple example we see everywhere is asking customers for feedback on the product/service/process as they have experienced it. The feedback can be used to enhance the organisation and increase the customers satisfaction dealing with the organisation. This translates into a loyal, happy customer who will think twice about leaving for a competitor. It also helps the company stay in touch with their customers changing habits and needs.
This answer to your question is an example of what retired CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, meant when he said, “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage”.
Today I answered your question “Where can I ask people to rate my brand/domain name?”
Today, most businesses conduct continuous surveys to stay in touch with clients changing needs. I would recommend you do the same.
A survey can be one simple, targeted question for respondents to fill in rather than many, irrelevant questions. Keep it short and easy for people to complete and tell them why you are asking the question(s).
If you are looking for feedback on your brand from any source and you don’t know anyone, try joining business groups, for example, those on Facebook and ask the group members for their opinion. Remember it is just an opinion.
If you are looking for feedback from existing and potential clients, try compiling a simple survey for them to complete.
The survey should have a specific objective. For example, rather than saying ‘rate my brand/domain name’, your survey should ask questions that provide an answer to whether your brand is clear, or strong for the sector. Be specific about what you are trying to find out. By doing so it will guide you to ask the right questions. For example, ask whether the colours or name are offensive.
Use a combination of positive and negative questions for balance. Ask for additional comments too. Try asking closed questions requiring a yes, no, answers and make sure your questions are not worded in a leading way that forces the participant to give you the answer you want to hear.
You could, for example, ask respondents to rate the effectiveness of the brand on a scale of 1 to 5 or rate the impact of the brand from a negative impact at -5 to a powerful positive impact at +5. Do not ask the respondent for personal details as you don’t need them to determine your brand rating.
I use SurveyMonkey because it forces you to keep to a few questions keeping things relevant, and it collates the responses for you in graphic form making it easier for you to see the results which inform your decisions going forward.
#toodglobal #smarterbusiness #competitiveadvantage #CTO #surveys #feedback
Today, I answered your question:
“What are the common business strategy mistakes?”
Four common mistakes I have come across in businesses formulating strategies are:
Richard Rumelt’s book “Good strategy, bad strategy” is an old but good read and discusses in length about what is a good strategy and what is a bad one, and why template-based strategies are so bad.
“How does a company develop the culture of the business? Is it something that is planned or eventually forms as the business grows and develops?”
The following is from a contemporary technology and business innovation/change management perspective.
Elliott Jacques’ (1951) defines culture as the “customary and traditional way of thinking and of doing things, which is shared to a greater or lesser extent by all [...] which new members must learn, and [...] accept, in order to be accepted into service in the firm”.
In simple terms this definition suggests that the culture is planned and established when the company is set up, such as the logos, titles, as well as the business and power structure. For example, does the company use processes to control staff or rules? Is the company hierarchical (top-to-bottom) where the top man sets the core belief system, or is it horizontal where all staff play a vital part? Culture is often expressed as “the way we do things here” so includes accepted rituals, norms, values, acronyms whether set by management, influenced by staff, or both, over time.
Today, companies are redefining their culture, strategically expressing and using their culture as a dynamic (changeable) competitive advantage, a tool that sets the company apart from competitors, and entices loyal customers and quality staff with the ‘matching’ mindset. That’s why, today, we see an abundance of statements such as “People over process” (Netflix, 2020), or, “Move fast. Be bold. Be yourself (Facebook, 2020). So, a modern company’s strategy is one that embraces and plans for ongoing culture statement changes with the times, to always remain fresh, relevant and enticing.
Companies are also changing their cultures completely to ensure longevity. IBM are an example of successful cultural change from black suited, rules orientated, to the dynamic company it is today. The IBM story makes good reading.
Today, I answered your question:
“Why does change management fail in most of the companies?”
There are many reasons for change management failures. One common reason is that the decisions surrounding change are approached in a project-like or linear process by senior management. For example, step 1 - what is the problem. Step 2 - how can we resolve the problem. Step 3 - formulate a strategy for rolling out the selected change. Step 4 - implement the change.
However, change involves people. People, or stakeholders, are often overlooked in the change process yet have the power to significantly influence the success or failure of the change. A common example from a technology perspective is business A researching and selecting new software to modernise the business. Six months after purchase none of the staff were using the software because it was too awkward to use and slowed staff down.
So, a more holistic approach is required for successful change. An approach of learning and understanding the interactions between stakeholders and the area requiring change before any decisions can be made on what that change should look like. This approach ensures the stakeholders have been considered, are part of the change process, and have had time to adapt to the change when it occurs. After change roll-out a delegated champion can keep morale positive by being available to support stakeholders with difficulties surrounding the change and to remind them regularly to apply the new changes.
If you are currently looking at adopting a popular business model, whether it be for a new business idea or innovating or updating an existing business, a strong strategy would be to familiarise yourself with today's popular business models. Then adopt one (if possible) that will be widely adopted over the next 5 years. That way you can get ahead of your competition. Here is some useful information and a resource to get you started:
A strong, precise business model(s) can be a powerful tool for innovation, competitive advantage, decision-making, and culture development. Business models (BM) can either be explicit, written/drawn out, or implicit, unspoken/ undocumented, yet no less powerful. A business model can be a graphic, template, or text heavy document in the form of a business plan. Often businesses have more than one business model (BM). For example, a business may have one BM for each of the following:
Building and developing strategic partnerships
There are over 50 types of BM’s that most businesses fall into (Gassmann et al, 2014). Some of the most common today are:
Freemium (18) - use some of the service for free, upgrade for additional functionality;
Subscription (48) - pay a monthly fee starting at an affordable price point with the option to increase or decrease over time;
E-commerce (13)- sell products/services online;
Performance based (38) - the client pays on results.
St Gallens Business Model Navigator (Gassmann et al, 2014)
“What are the best ways that companies have pivoted to meet the changing demands of their consumers?”
The economist Schumpeter (1939) identified a close relationship between technology developments and business cycles. Throughout history technology revolutions have occurred in tandem with business cycles or waves. In simple terms a new wave begins with each new technology bringing a surge of new products, services, skill developments, and devices over a period followed by a period of decline. Schumpeter shows the first wave starting in 1785 with the introduction of water power, textiles, and iron. Throughout the upward surge of the wave companies identify new opportunities and pivot to create new products/services/process or find new ways to do old things for greater revenue and competitive advantage.
Currently we appear to be experiencing the slowing down/decline of the 5th wave of digital networks, software, media, which started around 1990. Digital technologies removed geographical borders so anyone anywhere can conduct business/shop/interact at any time. Consumers have more choice. Also, the explosion of digital access to knowledge has created a far more informed consumer. The overall effect is the consumer no longer has to accept an unpleasant supplier experience because there are so many other suppliers to choose from and other more pleasant options available.
So the best way companies have pivoted to meet consumer demands over the past 30 years is to strive to provide good quality customer-centric all round experiences rather than expecting the customer to adapt to their way of doing business. In other words, its all about the customer.
The customer experience starts from the start of the customer journey whether it be buying in to the explicit company culture, mission, vision, to quality, affordability, availability, convenience, interaction and engagement, satisfaction, to name a few. Hence the explosion for the past few years of surveys, reviews and questionnaires. The data from these sources is collated and skillfully applied to pivot the company to meet their customer demands ahead of competition. As Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric said, “ An organisations ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
The ability to dynamically pivot business models, service delivery, products, customer experience, using technologies as the business context changes is key to company survival and competitive advantage.
A strong, precise business model(s) can be a powerful tool especially during COVID and beyond.
Business models (BM) can either be explicit, written/drawn out, or implicit, unspoken/ undocumented, yet no less powerful.
Often businesses have more than one business model (BM). For example, a business may have a BM for innovation, change, technologies, building and developing strategic partnerships, acquisitions that focus on buying up established competitors with key skills/products/services that complement the business.
There are also over 50 types of BM’s that most businesses fall into (Gassmann et al, 2014). For example, freemium, subscription, flat rate, e-commerce, retainer.
Business model(s) (BM) are powerful tools to any size contemporary business if applied skillfully. Here are a few examples:
So, a business model is a vital, powerful tool at any time for any size business at any stage of development. During COVID especially because a business needs to know what decisions can be made, within which boundaries, while retaining its core and lead over competitors so that they business continues to succeed during and beyond COVID.
Business owners and leaders are adopting a strategy of inquiring and learning to facilitate decisions going forward.
Managing a business under the COVID 19 situation as the traditional, linear, project-like approach commerce favours cannot produce a successful outcome. Why?
1. Because there is no history or experience of this kind of situation to inform management the business how to progress the business. In other words, there is no safe ‘blueprint’ to follow for a successful outcome. Everyone is learning as the situation unfolds.
2. There are so many people involved, each experiencing different emotions that will explode if a decision is made that makes them feel more uncertain.
3. Everyone has different needs. If these needs are not addressed, riots can break out and civil unrest.
So, a different management approach is needed, one that captures, learns, and considers everyone’s emotions and needs within legislation so that outcomes are favourable (not necessarily ideal) for everyone.
The different management approach is a systemic approach, one that embraces change, uncertainty, is always acutely on the ball with the needs and emotions of their workers, customers, shareholders, legislation, technologies, and are insightful about the impact their decisions will have on all these factors.
To do this successfully organisations are continuously capturing feedback from these groups, and the wider society, and learning along the way as the situation unfolds. This collective knowledge informs the business owner/leaders what steps to take going forward. Both governments and employers provide weekly updates because they need to learn as the situation unfolds before making the next decisions going forward.
“What are the three stages of strategic management?” and “ “How many types of strategic management are there?”
The original question was “What are the three stages of strategic management?” but was merged and published under “How many types of strategic management are there?” Each question has a different answer.
“What are the three stages of strategic management?”
From a technology, innovation and change management perspective, the three stages of strategic management are below in no specific order:
Stage 1: Diagnose the problem.
Stage 2: What is the guiding policy that will influence and impact any proposed solutions.
Stage 3: Coherent actions. A strategy is not a to do list, it is coherent set of precisely planned and scheduled actions for implementing and reviewing the strategy at pre-set intervals.
“How many types of strategic management are there?”
There are too many to mention all, so here are a few examples:
Horizontal vs vertical
A business plan, explicit or implicit, is the blueprint of your business. So it is different for each business. Below are some general questions to answer.
In my experience working with start-ups and existing businesses, I find the best place to start is to graphically represent the business as a business model. It is far easier for everyone to understand the business when viewed as a graphic, and to build on.
I like to use an adapted version of Gassman, Frankenberger, and Csik (2014) “magic triangle” framework (below) as it provides a simple, easy to understand graphic of the information needed to create a business plan and model with the focus on the view from your customer’s perspective of the value you provide.
Each corner of the triangle and the centre can be developed with more information as your research develops. The details can easily transfer into a business plan and an interesting pitch deck for those presentations to potential investors.
Simply fill in the four circles. Who is your target market, what value are you providing your target market, how will you provide it, at what cost, price, and mark-up (pricing model)?
Now build onto your initial answers for each circle providing much more detail as you progress. Detail comes from your knowledge of your business and experience. It also comes from thorough research and analysis. For example:
These are some of the questions to answer. Once answered add the information you accumulate to the different triangle circles. Show you know your business, market, and finances.
Now you can easily transfer the information from the graphic into a old format business plan with headings such as described by SmartAsset Top 10 Components of a Business Plan - SmartAsset
Most innovations are build on what already exists. Very few are inventions. The definition of innovation according to BIS (2012), is “innovation is the process by which new ideas are successfully exploited to create economic, social, and environmental value.”
In today’s business environment all businesses are developing the internal capabilities to innovate their products/services/processes dynamically and continuously. The capability is a necessity born out of the exponential growth of technological developments. New technologies are developed every 18 months (Moore’s Law). So most business are innovative. Those that have not adapted by developing this capability have closed, are closing, or have bought smaller, more innovative companies.
Here are a few household names who innovate services/products/processes since around 1995:
Air BnB (holiday accommodation),
IBM (their business model)
Procter and Gamble (their innovation business model)
Amazon (online books, Cloud services)
Elon Musk (space travel, electric cars)
Facebook, You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp (social media apps)
Boston Dynamics - Google (robotics)
Google - (machine learning)
Ebay (online auction).
These are examples of how companies formed through skillful application of technologies to create new products/services/processes/business structures valuable to new and existing markets.
The short answer is that until the start of widespread technology adoption around 2008, small businesses had the upper hand in many ways. Examples are:
To survive businesses have employed skilled CTO’s over 10 years to adapt their business. Here are a few:
From a CTO Technology Management perspective, companies are looking at ways to change their business to survive and thrive in a dynamic business market and to recover from the effects of COVID 19.
Technological advancements have changed the way we live and work from available devices and products, how we communicate, how business is managed and conducted, the way services are delivered, business structures, and what makes a business competitive, for example.
Therefore, companies are looking to innovate from within.
In particular, areas within the business that can be easily adapted to these changes, not once, but continuously, alongside ongoing technology advancements. Business models, service delivery, pricing models, knowledge, culture, technologies, management approaches, are some of the areas within an organisation that can be adapted for stronger competitive advantage. Without adapting in this way a business lags behind others in their sector, the worst case scenario being closure.
Here is the example in action.
The explosion of surveys and reviews companies are asking their customers to fill in over the past few years is collated, analysed, and decisions are made on what to adapt within the business. This is one simple example of how companies are capturing and using internal knowledge to inform their next move, a move that puts them ahead of competitors. As customers evolve and buying habits change, so, too, will the company’s products, service delivery, and product range, etc, because of the knowledge accumulated from these surveys and reviews.
As Ginni Rometty, ex-CEO of IBM said "You've got to keep reinventing. You'll have new competitors. You'll have new customers all around you."
In the current business environment, the best way to deal with customers who can’t afford your service is to be creative with your pricing model and come up with a solution that they can afford or at least a win-win situation.
Here is an example.
Netflix offers a subscription you can get out of at any time. The monthly subscription is easier for everyone to pay rather than a lump sum. They also offer different levels of subscription so subscribers can make a selection based on what they can afford and feel the service is worth to them without going down the illegal download route. A win-win situation.
Another example is Microsoft Office. A few years back many Microsoft users could no longer afford to purchase software as a once-off payment. The high costs encouraged piracy or adoption of open source options causing significant losses for Microsoft. A win-win situation today is Microsoft offering their up to date software on an affordable subscription basis.
Today in my work as a CTO most people think of technology as digital websites, social media, CRM’s, mobile phones, wifi, internet, e-commerce, modems, car engines.
This is the case because they are explicit. People can see them, interact with them each day, therefore have some understand of what it can do for them. However, they only make up about 5% of technologies.
Around 95% of technologies are implicit - can't be seen and requires specialist science based skills that take years of learning and experience to be able to understand, to apply the technologies effectively, within legislation, safely, and ethically.
In reality technology is actually scientific knowledge applied to overcome a practical problem. So technologies can be anything where science is applied to achieve an outcome.
For example, unique service delivery, management styles, business model innovation, computer programming, engineering, identifying and creating competitive advantage in business, managing complex situations systemically.
So the biggest illusion about technology is that most people today understand technology as the 5% they can see, touch and, therefore, understand rather than the 95% science.
Applying a common analogy for better understanding - knowing about the 5% and understanding it as technology is like knowing our body and thinking we are doctors.
(2) Control: Research shows most entrepreneurs fear losing control of their business. Entrepreneurs have the need to control every aspect of the business. The ugly truth is no one person can be an expert at every aspect of a business. Controlling everything in a business stunts the success and growth, and makes an entrepreneurs life miserable and stressful. Identify what you are good at and outsource the rest to experts who do know.
(3) Customers come first: The ugly truth is that your customers always come first. Apart from being the source of revenue for your business, your customers provide valuable insights into your business. For example, insights show the direction your business should be taking, whether you are satisfying the needs of your customers in a way they need to be satisfied, whether you need to increase your product line/ range of services to satisfy your customers.
(4) Adaptability: Research shows that to survive as a business in today’s technology driven world, a business needs to be very adaptable to changes that are occurring every 18 months (Moore’s Law). The ugly truth is most entrepreneurs do not have the skills or the time to learn which aspects of their business can be continuously adapted to changes. This is a good aspect of the business to outsource.
(5) Plan ahead: Most of what entrepreneurs experience in their business has happened before and other businesses have found a very good way around it. The ugly truth is entrepreneurs need to keep up to date with developments in business management and technologies and to use successful companies solutions as a guide to plan ahead up to 5 years. This requires time and specific skills. If you are not an expert at future planning, or do not have time to keep up with the latest developments in business and technology, this would be a good function to outsource.
Having started various businesses over the past 35 years and studied entrepreneurship at postgraduate level, research shows there are a number of ‘ugly truths’ to entrepreneurship. In no particular order I will focus on 5.
(1) Mindset: Having a good idea, passion, and a desire to help people with your service/product is not enough for success. The ugly truth is entrepreneurs require the mindset of finding a way forward regardless of the situation,drive and determination to succeed no matter what, and persevering even when things feel hopeless no matter what.
Joseph Schumpeter’s research, a world renowned economist from the early 1900’s, shows that with each technological advancement comes great entrepreneurial opportunities. We have seen that occurring in our own lives recently with digital technology. Amazon, Netflix, Google, Uber are current examples of businesses that would not exist without digital technologies. Like every technological advancement there are both positive and negative effects.
For example, the above services have enhanced people’s lives tremendously by creating the opportunity to buy cheaper transport, books, and provided more convenient ways of delivering a service such as providing instant access to unlimited information. One of the negative sides, however, is we give away some of our privacy to enjoy those services.
Digging deeper the fear new disruptive technologies bring is often the fear of change and the uncertainty rather than fear of the technology itself. Once we identify our personal fear of change we can manage the fear and prepare ourselves for new technologies by learning about the positive and negative aspects going forward.