You may have noticed in the past ten years or so, we’ve had more variety and better prices than ever before when shopping for — well, just about anything! This has been due in part by a global economy where competition is greater than ever. That’s great news for consumers but presents more pressure on companies to differentiate their goods and services from everyone else.
Regardless of what sort of business you run, there is almost certainly at least one other company that can do what you do just as well if not better. So, what do you need to do to get a leg up on the competition? Well, you can provide a better product or service, of course. But in today's business climate, you’ll need to go above and beyond that.
The days of competing with a store across town are long gone. Unless you are a business that offers a local service that can't be done somewhere else (e.g., restaurants or barbers), you’re keenly aware that someone from another part of the country — or world — can offer the same thing at a lower price. When a consumer is browsing by price, a difference of just a few cents can cost you the sale.
Thankfully, you can use this system to your advantage. In the past, to see what prices your competitors offered, you had to either hear it from other people or go into their store yourself. Nowadays, you’re just a few clicks away from that information. Not only can this help you in adjusting your prices, but you can even see if the product or service you plan to offer can give you the income you need to be profitable before you even start.
While many businesses can easily start off as a one-man operation or just a small office, being too small can hurt you in the long run. Having too small of an operation might cause you to not be able to handle the amount of clientele you need to stay competitive. Being small may also slow down production due to having too few people responsible for too much work. While running a lean business may seem to be the most cost-effective approach, be realistic about your business goals. Even modest growth in your operation can have astronomic results in overall business if done right.
There’s a reason why any company of size has a human resources department. If there is trouble amongst your employees, it can eventually affect the bottom line. They say that good help is hard to find, but any business owner or anyone who’s worked in management can tell you that isn’t always true — good help is hard to keep! It’s little wonder that many companies, when measuring success and failure, use a metric known as employee churn rate. This measures the percentage of the company’s workforce that leaves and has to be replaced. The higher this number, the more unhappy the employees in general, and this is often reflected in the profitability of the company as a whole.
If you work in a professional or specialized field, where do you think those ex-employees end up? Often in the arms of your competition or occasionally starting their own company that competes with yours. One of the most notable examples is Dave Thomas, who many forgot worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken (Now just KFC) before using the skills he learned under Colonial Sanders to open his own company, Wendy’s, which is now one of KFC’s biggest competitors. Imagine how things might have turned out if they were able to keep him satisfied?
If your employees aren’t happy with their jobs, how do you think that will affect the quality of their work? How will they treat your customers? As famous businessman Richard Branson once stated: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.
Stay Out of the Stone Age
For better or worse, customer expectations can often be more important than reality. One of the things many customers expect these days is that if a company isn’t using the latest space-age technology, at least they should attempt to keep up with the times. For example, how would you feel about hiring a company that is still using Windows 98?
In addition to superficial perception, there may be some substance to that argument as well. Many older versions of software lack features that we now take for granted as being standard. What’s more, older versions of software can also be dangerous. How many times have we heard of common software (such as Java) that had a flaw that hackers were able to exploit? Besides, even if the version doesn’t have a defect, older versions of most software can and will eventually have ways to let in cyberthreats to either you or your clientele.
Along with aging software, older hardware can be detrimental to your competitive edge. Out-of-date or inefficient hardware can leave you unable to deliver what your customer’s expect or make the end product a lower quality. While you don’t have to purchase equipment every time a new advancement comes along, keeping an eye on what is generally being used by your competitors will at least keep you even with them.
Consider Outside Help
Technology is a tool for your business, either on the frontend or backend. Make sure your equipment, software, and data management are all up to date and optimal for your needs. If purchasing those items is cost-prohibitive, you might consider utilizing a Hardware as a Service (HaaS) or Software and a Service (SaaS) arrangement to keep up with the competition. If you feel that your company would benefit from this, contact us today to set up a consultation to help you sharpen your competitive edge.
As we head into this new decade, it’s more important than ever to stay competitive. You’ve worked hard to get your company this far. Don’t let it suffer by not keeping up with technology’s ever-changing advancements.